Free Ipswich shuttle bus axed by Suffolk County Council
The chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council has said he is surprised and disappointed to hear that the town centre shuttle bus service is being stopped next month.
According to Russell Williams county council bosses revealed the number 38 service was being axed - and will stop running on July 28.
He also said the borough had not been consulted about the decision before being told at lunchtime today.
In a statement, Mr Williams added: “This afternoon Suffolk County Council announced that the town centre shuttle bus service (38) will cease on July 28.
“We are surprised and disappointed to hear of the county council’s decision.
“We were not consulted prior to this decision being made and were informed of it at lunchtime today.
He added: “We shall be reviewing our options to see if there is any way that we can help people who have depended on this service for so many years.
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“I have already informed the leader of the council and I anticipate that we will make a ‘what next’ decision next week.
“I apologise for any distress and inconvenience the county council’s decision will cause.”
Representatives for the county council confirmed the bus will stop running in July – with the money diverted to encourage staff to use the Park and Ride service.
The decision forms part of a new campaign being launched by the organisation today in a bid to reduce the number of council employees driving into work.
One free shuttle bus passenger told this newspaper outside the Endeavour House bus stop: “It was initially a luxury but it has become essential for a lot of people. It is the first link in a much bigger transport network. A lot of people with buggies and mobility issues use it. There is a sense of community onboard.
“People will now have to either pay for a bus or get a taxi. A lot of workers will now have to drive in anyway. I am very disappointed.”
Another said: “I am gutted. A lot of us rely on it to get to work.”
One of the shuttle’s bus drivers said around 50% of passengers were members of the public.
The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It is sad, but they have to got to save money. I’d like to thank all my great passengers.”
The service runs every 20 minutes, Monday to Friday. Bus stops include the Old Cattle Market and Tower Ramparts.
Head of environment strategy Matt Hullis said: “Public sector organisations need to save money by sharing buildings and across Suffolk over £40 million has been saved doing exactly that.
“But it puts pressure on parking and our staff car park is at capacity. That’s why we must take action now.
“By encouraging staff to use Park and Ride, we are trying to address this issue and minimise congestion in the centre of Ipswich.
“We do understand it will be missed, but the shuttle bus has always been funded by charging council staff to park.
He added: “Having only one main building in the centre of town means the original reason for the service no longer exists and funding can be diverted to help reduce rush-hour congestion.
“That’s why we’ve decided not to extend the current contract when it expires at the end of July.”
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 new campaign will remind employees of travel options available to them.
It will run a six-month trial to get more staff using the town’s regular Park and Ride service.
Starting on August 1, the trial will use the money from staff parking charges to subsidise staff use of the Park and Ride service to get to and from work.