On the buses

IPSWICH Buses provide an excellent service to the town.But then they ought to, because since the prices went up at the start of this month they have started to look like a very expensive option for many people.

IPSWICH Buses provide an excellent service to the town.

But then they ought to, because since the prices went up at the start of this month they have started to look like a very expensive option for many people.

For regular passengers - those with weekly or monthly season tickets - they offer good value. But for casual travellers their journeys do start to look expensive.

If a couple wants to make a return trip to the town centre from one of the town's estates, the journey now costs £6.80. Car parks may be getting expensive, but you can buy several hours for that cost.

It is not fair to blame the bus company for this state of affairs. It is no more immune to the cost of diesel and new vehicles than the rest of us.

And of course it has to pay the wages of its staff, who all do very responsible jobs.

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But I can't help feeling that Ipswich Buses has been let down by changes to government policy - and that the government's commitment to green transport is not as strong as its desire to keep public spending down. It has made great play of the fact that pensioners now get free transport - but that is a policy may people feel discomforting.

The problem with giving free bus transport to pensioners is the underlying assumption that pensioners are not wealthy enough to afford bus fares. That might be true for many pensioners - especially with bus fares now so high - but there are many others who are better able to afford the cost of bus fares than those living on benefit on the estates of Ipswich.

And if the government really wants to tempt people out of their cars, it really ought to look at ways of subsidising bus fares for everyone.

Until now there has been a subsidy, albeit a hidden one, in that the excise diesel paid on fuel for public transport operators has been returned by the government.

Now it seems this subsidy is to discontinued - or is it? Was it a deliberate decision by the chancellor not to rebate the latest excise duty increase - or an oversight by the government?

Whatever the reason, the fact is that government policy is pushing up the cost of bus transport - and if travelling by bus looks expensive, many people will be encouraged to get in their cars instead.

And that is not good for the environment.

Any patch of ground within sight of the River Orwell seems ripe for development these days. So I suppose no one should be surprised by the re-emergence of a proposal to build a new hotel on what is now the Ipswich Village car park.

But I'm not holding my breath - I can't see any development happening there in a hurry and any such development is hardly desirable.The car park is vital for the town - it is used by hundreds of people heading to the station or visiting the offices in Ipswich Village.

And any building on that site would be very much at threat from flooding - I hope any developer looks at the pictures from 1939 before he or she shells out millions on the site.

The more I think about the site, the more I can't help feeling that there is some need for car parking in the area and that site is just about the ideal place for it.

I suppose you could spend millions and get the same amount of parking on a multi-storey only taking up half the ground space.

But are we so desperate to fill every last inch that an area of flat space which could be at risk of flooding can't be left fulfilling the purpose it is superbly located for.

If I hear any more about how there must be a referendum on the European Treaty, I think I'll scream.

The fact is virtually no one except Euro-fanatics actually gives a fig about this treaty - and perhaps it's time for a referendum on the real issue at the heart of the matter.

When we vote in general elections, we elect representatives to consider matters like the European Treaty with are frankly too complex to sum up in a simple referendum question.

The real question those banging on about a referendum want asked is: “Should Britain stay in the EU?”

If they say “No, no, it's only about the treaty,” then I'm really sorry but I simply don't believe them.

No one can get so het up about this kind of treaty unless they're totally obsessed with the subject.

And anyone so obsessed with trivia when there are so many important questions that the government has to deal with like wars in Iraq and the state of the health and education systems should frankly get a life!

So perhaps it is time to repeat the 1975 referendum and ask people if the time has come to withdraw from the EU.

Then we can have a proper debate which could end up with Britain separating itself from the French, the Germans, the Italians, and the Spanish if that's what we want.

But if we do end up voting to come out of the EU, I hope no one will be surprised if global financial institutions withdraw from the City of London, if major multinationals like Toyota, Ford, or Microsoft choose to invest in other European countries, and Britain's voice will become a much quieter soloist on the world stage rather than being a leading part of a major chorus.

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