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Local knowledge could have prevented Suffolk bus chaos – councillor

PUBLISHED: 16:09 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:09 04 September 2017

Andrew Stringer said the county should have consulted with local bus users

Andrew Stringer said the county should have consulted with local bus users

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Suffolk county council could have saved the need for an embarrassing and expensive about-turn if officers and councillors had talked to local communities before attempting to change bus routes this week.

Andrew Stringer said local residents would have told the council the proposed route was unsuitable for buses. Picture: PAUL GEATERAndrew Stringer said local residents would have told the council the proposed route was unsuitable for buses. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The county had tried to cut the subsidy it pays to Galloway Travel to operate bus routes from Diss and Eye to Ipswich through villages in Mid Suffolk, but had drawn up a new route that missed out two villages – Thwaite and Stoke Ash – altogether.

The new timetable came in on Monday, September 4, but there was such an outcry that the county changed its plans – and is due to reinstate the previous timetable next Monday.

In the meantime it is paying for a shuttle minibus to run between Thwaite, Stoke Ash and Eye.

Green county councillor Andrew Stringer’s Upper Gipping division includes Thwaite and Stoke Ash and said it was clear that the new timetable had been drawn up by people who did not know the area.

He said: “They’ve done this before. They look at the map, look at some of the names on the map but don’t really know the area.

“Then it’s announced just before it comes into service as a fait accompli. It’s good that this time there were enough people making a noise to get them to bring in these changes.

“But if they’d talked to the local communities and the local councillors before they made the changes in the first place it would have saved a lot of trouble – and a lot of concern from the people who rely on the buses and who had been very concerned about losing their lifeline.”

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for transport James Finch said: “This work was undertaken in good faith within extremely tight legal timeframes.

“We will revert back to the old timetable whilst a further review takes place.

“The cost of the service is still considerable and with inflationary pressures within the transport industry this shows no signs of slowing whilst revenue from fares has shown no growth.

“Revised changes are likely to be made in January 2018 as a result of this process.

“All comments made during the last few weeks will of course be taken into account to ensure that provision going forward meets known demands and gives a level of provision for each parish, commensurate with that demand.”

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