Fears grow over threat of bus cuts

OPPOSITION continues to mount to suggestions that bus services in Ipswich could be axed in an attempt to cut costs at Ipswich's council-owned bus company.

OPPOSITION continues to mount to suggestions that bus services in Ipswich could be axed in an attempt to cut costs at Ipswich's council-owned bus company.

The Evening Star revealed earlier this month that three routes - the 14, 19, and 22 - were under threat from early next year because of Ipswich Borough Council's demand that Ipswich Buses pays it a dividend and rent, which will require it to make £400,000 worth of cuts.

Councillors in the ruling Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration at the borough's Grafton House headquarters insist that any cuts to services would only be made if there was a lack of demand on the routes.

However Ipswich Buses chairman Phil Smart, who is also Labour transport spokesman on the borough council, is coming under pressure to resign after allegedly telling fellow directors: “If there are service cuts it will be the Tory routes that go first.”

Mr Smart has denied making the comment, but two of the threatened routes serve marginal wards - Whitton and Rushmere - which are currently held by Conservative councillors.

Coupons continue to come into Evening Star offices, and a separate Labour Party petition has so far attracted 800 signatures.

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The future of the town's bus services are expected to be debated during the next full meeting of Ipswich Council later this month.

Meanwhile many more bus users have written to tell us their views about the future of their services - and how cuts would affect their lives.

How important is your bus service? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

AMONG the many elderly people who rely on the bus to take them out and about around Ipswich, Irene and Mick O'Halloran, from Pine View Rd, are very concerned about the threat of cuts to the service.

Mr and Mrs O'Halloran have been catching the number 19 bus for many years and are unhappy about the prospect of walking home uphill with their shopping bags.

Mrs O'Halloran said: “The bus is so convenient, it's just at the end of the road. To get another bus you have to walk to Norwich Road and coming back from town is difficult because it's uphill and we have our shopping.

“We are both elderly, my husband is in his 90th year and I'm over 80. If we could just have one bus an hour in each direction that would be enough. If the bus service is cut we will have to either not go or walk.”

TOM and Patricia Gondris, from St Edmunds Rd, Ipswich, are regular users of the Ipswich Buses service and strong supporters of public transport.

They are keen not to add to congestion and carbon emissions in the town but they admit that if their bus service was cut they would be forced to resort to using their car.

Mrs Gondris, 69, said: “We use the number 19 very often. We walk into town and get the bus back. If the service was cut we would have to start using the car again. My husband has a weak hip and the bus is a Godsend for bringing shopping back. We just cannot understand why, when we are all urged to think green, they would do this.”

Her 76-year-old husband added: “We strongly support the use of public transport wherever possible and I think that the bus service needs all the support it can get.”

PEGGY Robertson-Campbell, 82, from Paget Rd, Ipswich, catches the number 19 bus to get home from her job as a charity shop volunteer in the town centre and she's worried about the effect the bus cuts will have on her and the work she does.

She said: “I work at the Mind charity shop two days a week and I walk to town and then catch the bus home. I will miss the service very much because it's uphill on the way home. I don't drive and I'm not getting any younger. [The cuts] may even stop me from getting to work.”

BILL Kent, a disabled pensioner from Waller's Grove, Ipswich, uses the 14a service.

He said: “I really rely on the bus service to get to the hospital and the surgery. I use it four or five times a week. If the service stopped running I'd have to get a taxi.”

His wife, Mary, says she knows lots of elderly and disabled people from the area who are dependant on the 14a service.

She said: “If they didn't have this bus they would not be able to go out, as we are surrounded by hills in every direction and these people just can't manage to walk up to Hawthorne Drive and crossing London Road would be dangerous as many walk very slowly and some are partially sighted.”