Ipswich park and ride gets new look as First Group takes on contract
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The new subsidy-free park and ride service for Ipswich has been launched – with First Eastern Counties taking over the operation of the service.
The transport giant will be responsible for promoting the service and attracting new customers as it tries to run it without financial support from Suffolk County Council.
The number of buses has been cut from five an hour to four – but bosses are convinced this will not put off potential passengers who should have to wait a maximum of 15 minutes to catch a bus from the parks at Copdock Mill and Martlesham Heath.
First Group has brought in a fleet of refreshed buses with more leg-room and on-board wi-fi – and there is also extra promotion of the service to make it easier for users to understand.
However, there were mixed feelings among users of some on the early services today, who pointed out that some fares had increased and there were now fewer buses operating.
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County council cabinet member for transport, James Finch, was delighted that the new service had finally been launched.
He said: “We needed to cut the subsidy to the service, but I always said this was vital for Ipswich – to make it easier to get into the town centre and to help cut the number of vehicles on the roads coming into the town.
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“I am confident this will work well and we are looking forward to working with First Eastern Counties in the long term.”
Stephen Wickers, managing director of First Eastern Counties, said the fact that the company would be promoting and marketing the service was crucial. “We will be going out and selling the service,” he said. “We have already started to create the brand and make it easier for people to use.”
The buses have their own distinct livery, and inside carry route information on a “tube-style” map.
However, regular users still have to be convinced there is a change, although they were relieved it was still running after the county council said it needed to operate without a subsidy.
Fenella Barnes, who is a regular user, said: “It is much easier than trying to find somewhere to park in Ipswich – that can be quite expensive and you have to find a parking space. These buses seem quite spacious and at least it means the service can continue after the worry before.”