Ipswich: Anger at meeting over changes to route 62 bus

HUNDREDS of furious bus passengers packed a church hall to express their anger at changes to a “vital” town service.

Elderly people will be “disenfranchised” when route 62, operated by First Eastern Counties, terminates on July 29, it was claimed at last night’s meeting at St Augustine’s church hall.

More than 200 residents from Bixley Farm, Broke Hall, Holywells and other affected areas cheered, laughed and booed as two representatives from the bus company faced the crowds to explain the changes, which are part of an overhaul of the whole First network in the town.

Suffolk county councillor for Bixley Alan Murray called last night’s meeting and was joined by borough councillors John CarnalI and Richard Pope for Bixley and Liz Harsant for Holywells.

The route currently starts at Penshurst Road shops in Bixley and travels through Ashdown Way, Bixley Road and Felixstowe Road to the town centre.

Under the new plans the 55/56 service will now serve Bixley Farm and Broke Hall but via Foxhall Road. Services 76/77 to and from Felixstowe will be re-routed along part of Felixstowe Road and Lindburgh Road.

But livid members of the audience last night raised their concerns that a vital stretch of Felixstowe Road, from the St Augustine’s roundabout to Derby Road will be “cut off” with two doctors’ surgeries, Aldi, Co-op and various banks out of reach for many of the elderly residents who rely on the 62 service.

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Mr Murray, who had expected 40 people to turn up, said: “My worry is that this will disenfranchise the elderly and infirm as well as young people who rely on the service to get to and from work.

“There is the church hall, various lunch clubs and important things like Aldi and Co-op, two doctors’ surgeries, banks, the Genesis centre for disabled people.

“This meeting shows what local democracy can do if you are communicated with.”

Admitting the decision had already been taken, Cliff Hussey, First’s general manager for Suffolk and north Essex and Sean Daw, depot operations manager for Ipswich explained the company’s commercial team had undertaken surveys.

Mr Hussey said they revealed the 62 service was used by 60-70 people a week, or 10-12 people a day from Bixley and Broke Hall to the stretch of Felixstowe Road left without a bus service under the new plans – prompting laughter and shouts of disbelief from the crowds.

William and Janice Steward, of Larking Rise, use the bus around three times a week.

Mr Steward said: “It will entirely change our lives and those of hundreds of other people, many elderly and unable to walk.

“It is a very busy route and needs to stay.”

Were you at the meeting? What do you think of the plans?