Fears for future of free Ipswich shuttle bus as contract due to expire

The Ipswich shuttle bus was launched in 2004. Picture: Clifford Hicks.

The Ipswich shuttle bus was launched in 2004. Picture: Clifford Hicks.

There are growing fears that the free shuttle bus linking Endeavour House in Russell Road with Ipswich town centre could be scrapped when its current contract expires at the end of next month.

The bus has operated ever since the county council moved from its old headquarters in St Helen’s Street to Endeavour House in 2004.

It is financed by the car parking fees paid by county council employees who use the authority’s own multi-storey car park on Constantine Road.

The authority has always stressed that no council taxpayers’ money is used to provide the service which can be used by the general public as well as council employees.

The contract with Ipswich Buses to operate the service expires at the end of July. The county council has invited tenders to provide the new service – but it describes it as being for “public sector” employees.

It has also given formal notice to the borough council-owned bus company to say that the contract will be coming to an end. No new contract has yet been negotiated to maintain the service.

There are also concerns that the county might decide not to let a new contract and that the money raised by employees’ parking fees could be used for other transport initiatives.

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Opposition councillors and bus users have been warned that potentially two jobs could be at risk if the service stops operating.

It is understood that a decision on the future of the service has been held up because of the General Election.

Strictly-observed “purdah” rules mean officers have not been able to speak to cabinet member for transport James Finch about the subject until it is decided whether Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn will be tenant of 10 Downing Street!

Mr Finch could not comment on the situation apart from saying a decision would be made once the election was over.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “No final decision has been made. The contract is up at the end of July and we are currently looking at our options for the future.”

It is understood that talks have been going on between the council and bus companies in a bid to secure a new contract – but in the meantime users and drivers do not know whether the buses will continue to operate after the end of July.