Council plans bus service improvements despite failed funding bid

Suffolk County Council plans improvements in the county's bus services.

Suffolk County Council plans improvements in the county's bus services. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Four key improvements are still planned for Suffolk's bus network – despite the council in a bid for £77million of extra government funding.

Suffolk County Council’s bid for the government to fund its bus service improvement plan was rejected by the Department for Transport in April due to a "lack of ambition".

But despite the funding setback, the council has this week confirmed it will be pursuing four priority measures in its bus service improvement plan (BSIP).

It includes introducing multi-operator ticketing, greater enforcement of misuse of bus lanes, tackling bus lane spots which are frequently snared up, and easier journeys cross-borders.

Council chiefs say they will fund these improvements out of the existing budget, but they planned to explore grants and other external funding opportunities.

The authority will work with operators to map future services as part of the Enhanced Partnership plan of bus provision.

Councillor Alexander Nicoll

Councillor Alexander Nicoll - Credit: Archant

Cllr Alexander Nicoll, Conservative deputy cabinet member for transport and chairman of the Enhanced Partnership programme, said: “While the recent DfT bus funding announcement was disappointing, we and our partners are getting on with the job of improving bus provision across Suffolk.

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“This will be progressed by the Enhanced Partnership, through which we aim to deliver more effective services.

“Working with bus operators and other partners, including district councils, we are committed to supporting communities across Suffolk, help meet our transition to net zero, and create economic opportunities that benefit everyone.”

The multi-operator ticketing option will begin with a trial on a suitable route later this year before being rolled out further.

For bus lane enforcement, the council’s cabinet will seek additional powers from the Government later this year as part of ongoing plans to obtain powers over enforcing traffic offences, and if approved will be implemented next year.

Operators have reported bus lanes where delays are frequently experienced as part of a series of workshops. Measures to free up those jams include more enforcement and adjusting traffic light signals.

For cross-border routes, a ‘customer charter’ is to be drawn up with operators in neighbouring counties to help ease those journeys.

Keith Welham, spokesman for transport and highways with the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said the Conservative administration “owes it to our residents to do much better”.

“If we had been more ambitious, this administration would’ve been able to properly invest in a strategy for all,” he said.