First Buses makes compromise on Martlesham Route 66 proposals
PUBLISHED: 07:31 15 August 2019
Public backlash over plans to re-route a key Martlesham bus service has resulted in a U-turn by operators.
But passengers have been warned they must use it or lose it in order to be commercially viable.
First Eastern Counties last week announced a tranche of changes to its services that will take effect from September, which included changes to the Route 66 which operates between Ipswich and Martlesham.
The firm claimed its data showed a "one person, per journey, per day" average at stops in Eagle Way, Martlesham, which the new route would miss.
But following public backlash from the Martlesham community, First has announced it will now continue to run a service via Eagle Way every hour from Mondays to Saturdays in the "short term".
Currently services run around every 20 minutes.
It is not yet clear how long the deal will be in place for, but the firm has stressed that there needs to be evidence of passengers using those stops for it to continue longer term.
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First marketing manager David Jordan said: "During an in-depth analysis of our network across Ipswich, we found that there was extremely limited use of our 66 service along Eagle Way in Martlesham.
"With less than one person per journey per day using the service on average, we had to take the extremely difficult view that it was no longer commercially viable to provide a service as is currently in place.
"We believe that there is potential for a service at this level to be financially viable and it is our sincere hope that sufficient, and additional, people at and above the levels we are currently recording will use the service to allow us to keep this as a part of our network in the longer term. "We look forward to the support of the local community in using the revised service and thus ensuring that it, at its lower and more easily sustainable level, remains in place for the future."
Martlesham Parish Council said it welcomed First's decision to continue a limited service and for listening to feedback, but still had serious concerns.
"We fear the poor service will force many people to make alternative arrangements so rendering the rump service uneconomic," said council chairman Mike Irwin.
"First Buses is claiming again to have consulted, they didn't consult the first time and we know of no new consultation.
"They still don't know if the service offered is what is required. A real commercial operation would engage with its customers to provide a suitable service. We are at a loss to know why they won't talk.
"Martlesham Parish Council once again asks First Buses to consult with residents and stakeholders, including local councils to establish a long term sustainable pattern of bus services in Martlesham and along the A1214 corridor."
Among concerns raised were the lack of available routes those living in Martlesham would have, and First's suggestion that passengers wishing to get to Ipswich should use the 173 Ipswich Buses service - a service which only operates between Woodbridge and Felixstowe and did not call into Ipswich at all.