Unanimous approval to move forward with £50m bus improvement bid

SCC Cllr Richard Smith Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

SCC Cllr Richard Smith Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Plans to secure £50m for bus service improvements in Suffolk must be submitted by the end of this month, as cabinet members agree to move forward with the bid.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet members gave unanimous approval on Tuesday to lodge the bid for the government's Bus Back Better scheme. 

The county council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) include ambitions for more joined-up services, multi-operator ticket options, cheaper fares, wider coverage and upgraded infrastructure.

It is looking to secure £50m over three years to fund the improvements  – £15m each for the first two years and £20m for year three.

Among the key improvements planned in Suffolk are:

A review of service frequency, particularly on key corridors
Simplified services – including both regular scheduled buses and ‘demand-responsive’ services
Integrating school bus services with regular public network routes, including increased bus opportunities in rural areas
Expand the experimental Katch electric demand-responsive bus currently piloting between Framlingham and Wickham Market to other rural areas
Increase bus priority measures – targeting bus corridors through Ipswich and automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) enforcement of bus lanes
Lower fares for those aged up to 25, possibly around a 25% discount in line with the Endeavour Card
Contactless touch-on and touch-off ticketing and daily fare caps
Multi-operator ticketing
Expanding rail and bus ticket options (PlusBus) to Sudbury and Newmarket, and flexible PlusBus options for Ipswich-Felixstowe
Explore a potential “Pocket Park & Ride” site in Nacton part of Ipswich
Explore merging Ipswich’s two bus stations into one main hub
New lighting and markings at bus stops
Website improvements to Suffolk On Board and installing 50 real-time display boards at bus stations
Improved bus routes to and from tourism hotspots
Exploring ways of de-carbonising buses

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Conservative cabinet member for economic development, transport and waste, Richard Smith, said: “An efficient bus network is key in providing a viable alternative to the private car and encouraging people on to public transport.

“Developing areas such as rural services, plus developing features like smart ticketing to improve the passenger experience, will help increase the use of public transport which in turn can reduce congestion in our towns and provide a cleaner and greener environment.

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“Transport is a significant contributor to carbon emissions; increasing the use of sustainable transport will play an important role in achieving carbon reduction in Suffolk.”

The government has set aside £3billion nationally for the scheme though it is not decided when the council will find out if its ask is successful or how much it will receive. 

The BSIP must be published and submitted to Government by the end of the month.

Keith Welham, transport spokesman from the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, questioned whether the 23 bus routes where council subsidies were cut in 2019 would be re-instated.

Cllr Welham said: “Rural bus routes would bring passengers to feed what have been listed as the key corridors,” and added: “The key to bus timetable reliability is bus priority measures.”

Sandy Martin, deputy leader of the Labour group, said the plan had to stimulate demand. 

He said: "Getting young people to start using, or continue using buses, is absolutely critical to that.

“If people start getting their own cars it becomes much more difficult to attract them out of it.

“In which case, can I suggest that 25% [discount for under 25s] is not enough?”

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