Ipswich shuttle bus to be withdrawn after council rejects users’ petition

The Labour and trade union campaign failed to save the Ipswich shuttle bus. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Labour and trade union campaign failed to save the Ipswich shuttle bus. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

A 1,000-signature strong petition could not save the Ipswich free shuttle bus when members of the county council backed plans to withdraw funding for the service from the end of the month.

The free bus links the county’s Endeavour House headquarters in Russell Road with the town centre, and was introduced in 2004 when the authority moved into the new headquarters from its former home in County Hall.

It is financed by the parking charges paid by staff who use the authority’s own multi-storey park next to Endeavour House, but it can be used by anyone – not just council employees.

However last month it was confirmed the funding would be withdrawn. It has now been switched to a new scheme to encourage staff to use the town’s park and ride services rather than bringing their cars into the town centre.

The Suffolk Labour group organised the petition to try to save the shuttle bus and its leader Sandra Gage said it provided a valuable economic benefit to town centre businesses.

She said: “Every lunchtime it takes 90-150 people into the town centre from this area. Assuming that they all spent at least £10 in the shops there, that’s £390,000 a year into the local economy.”

Her Labour colleague Kathy Bole said the service was particularly useful for those with mobility problems or who was suffering from dementia – it made it very easy to get around the town.

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However cabinet member for transport James Finch said the service was no longer necessary – and it would provide a real boost for the park and ride service that was re-launched earlier this month.

His predecessor in the role, Graham Newman, added: “This was a service that was very important in its time, but as we have moved out of the other buildings we used to have in the town centre its importance has gone.”

He said park and ride centres usually had at least 40% of their spaces empty and it was more important to support this if the county was to encourage green travel in the town.

Ipswich council contributes to the service – but Tories from outside the town said if it was such a vital service the borough should take it over completely.

The Labour motion was backed by 13 councillors with 36 opposing it and three abstentions.