First Group takes over Ipswich park and ride in July with fewer buses

First Eastern Counties is to take over Ipswich Park and Ride from July. Picture: GREGG BROWN

First Eastern Counties is to take over Ipswich Park and Ride from July. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

First Eastern Counties is to take over Ipswich’s park and ride service on July 3 – running a service with a smaller subsidy but fewer buses than at present.

Ipswich Buses have run the service since 2013, but it came under threat last year as the county council tried to cut its £700,000 a year subsidy.

After negotiations with both Ipswich Buses and First Group, it was announced in December that First would be taking over the services from this summer.

The subsidy will be cut to £200,000 a year – the cost of maintaining the car parks at Martlesham and at Copdock Mill – but the bus services will have to be self-sustaining.

The number of buses an hour will be cut from five to four – meaning they will run every 15 minutes rather than ever 12 minutes.

The service will operate Monday to Saturday between 7am and 7pm, linking the sites at Copdock Mill and Martlesham with the town centre and Ipswich Hospital.

Buses will carry a new livery that First hopes will be easily recognised. A new range of tickets will be introduced including new off-peak fares aimed at shoppers, leisure travellers and visitors to the town.

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The new range of tickets will be available on the bus and through First’s “mTicket App” which allows customers to buy tickets using their mobile phone – and Endeavour cards used by young travellers will be accepted.

Steve Wickers, Managing Director of First Eastern Counties said “We recognise that Ipswich Park and Ride provides a valuable service for commuters, businesses, shoppers and tourists alike and we are delighted to be able to further develop and enhance the service for both existing and new passengers.”

Suffolk County Cabinet member for transport James Finch said the deal with First would last for at least five years: “This is good news for the town. I needed to cut the costs of the service but I was very keen to retain a park and ride service for Ipswich.”

Labour transport spokeswoman Sandra Gage said she was concerned about the future of the service: “I do not think park and ride can survive without subsidies. It does not survive without subsidies anywhere else in the region.

“I think James Finch is deluded if he thinks it has a long-term future on this basis.”