'Suffolk lacked ambition' says bus boss after funding snub

Ipswich Buses boss Stephen Bryce

Steve Bryce, general manager of Ipswich Buses. - Credit: Ipswich Buses

The boss of Ipswich Buses has said he was not surprised that Suffolk failed to get government money to improve public transport and the county council had failed to set up effective partnerships with operators.

Steve Bryce, the general manager of the Ipswich Council-owned bus company said: “I am disappointed but not surprised that Suffolk County Council had failed to secure any of the funding for its Bus Service Improvement Plan as it lacked both ambition and did not include key items that the DfT were looking for.

"These included key items that were requested by Ipswich Buses such as support to reopen the Bury Road Park and Ride,  funding to reduce emissions such retrofitting bus exhausts with emission traps or exploring alternative fuels”.

“In Suffolk we do not have any robust or effective partnerships that have delivered any improvements to the public transport network and reduced journey times for our customers.

"Through the Ipswich Quality Bus Partnership, I have been urging Suffolk County Council to listen and work with bus operators to get the basics right before we look at fantasy projects like combining Ipswich’s two bus stations.

"Any authority that allows buses to be forced out of existing bus priority corridors such as the situation we have in Fore Street can’t act surprised that they are not considered by the government to be pro-public transport.

"Serious questions need to be asked by the leadership of Suffolk County Council and lessons need to be learnt so that the next time we have the opportunity to bid for funding we are successful."

Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for strategic highways Richard Smith said the authority's bid for £107m over five years would have been a real boost for local bus services. 

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He added: “The funding we bid for would have given us a real opportunity to transform bus services in Suffolk. It is disappointing but it should be remembered that this funding would have been over and above our existing budget of £1.58m."

The council would now be looking at improving services within its existing funding.

But a government spokesman said unsuccessful bidders for a share of £1bn of DfT funding did not fully meet the criteria set out by the Government in showing ambition to improve bus priority schemes.

Cars illegally using Fore Street

Ipswich Buses have had to change routes because so many private cars are illegally using the stretch of Fore Street closed to general traffic. - Credit: Stephen Bryce

Mr Bryce has spoken before about his frustration at the situation in Fore Street - but the county says it is unable to take action because there are premises on the street that require access so automatic cameras are not a solution.