Park and ride news sparks bus cut fears

FEARS were rising today that massive cuts could be made to Ipswich Buses services in the wake of the company losing the contract to run the town's Park and Ride operation.

Paul Geater

FEARS were rising today that massive cuts could be made to Ipswich Buses services in the wake of the company losing the contract to run the town's Park and Ride operation.

The news that it is to lose the contract to operate park and ride services in November came as a bitter blow to the borough council-owned bus company which is already reeling from increased fuel prices.

Today Labour councillors accused the Conservative administration at both the county and the borough of undermining Ipswich Buses.

There was also a warning that the county council's decision could end up costing taxpayers more while leaving passengers with a worse service.

Transport multi-national First Group - which operate Eastern Counties buses - put in a lower tender to run the park and ride service which has been operated by Ipswich Buses since the first route to Copdock Mill opened in 1997.

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It has been revealed the difference between the two companies was not great in financial terms - but losing the contract could have a serious knock-on effect.

Without the money from managing the park and ride service, Ipswich Buses' evening and weekend services could become uneconomic - and that could force the company to seek subsidies from the county council.

Ipswich Buses managing director Malcolm Robson warned that some services could be threatened by serious cuts as a result of fuel price increases and the loss of the Park and Ride contract.

He said: “The main services should be all right, but some of the infill services could come under pressure - the kind of routes where there was concern last year.

“The number 19 service (to The Dales and Castle Hill) has picked up substantially over the last year, but things could be difficult on other routes.”

County Transport spokesman Guy McGregor said the contract was awarded to First Group because it offered a lower price and better vehicles.

He said: “We have been very pleased with the work done by Ipswich Buses, and their bid was not far behind that from First Group. We thank them for all their work over the last few years.”

However county Labour leader Julian Swainson said the Conservative administration's decision to take the contract away would put extra pressure on a company already threatened by the borough's decision to increase the dividend it took.

He said: "Over the last year, both Ipswich and County Conservatives have appeared to want to starve Ipswich Buses of contracts and resources.”

- Are you worried about losing bus services? Write to: Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk>

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