Suffolk rules out a deal to make it easier for bus passengers in big towns

Ipswich Buses at Tower Ramparts. Picture: ANDREW BERRY

Ipswich Buses at Tower Ramparts. Picture: ANDREW BERRY - Credit: citizenside.com

Regular bus passengers in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds will continue to miss out on the benefits of flexible ticketing schemes after Suffolk County Council ruled out sponsoring such a scheme at present.

Most large towns and cities – including Colchester and Norwich – have flexible ticketing arrangements which allow passengers to use tickets, or passes, on any bus services within a defined area whichever company runs them.

However, these effectively have to be brokered by the relevant passenger transport authority, and in most areas that is the county council.

If companies get together without the involvement of the county council they risk being fined by the Competition Authority because of the danger they could be running a cartel.

In Ipswich this means that people making some journeys across the town have to buy two tickets, or buy a second ticket on top of their bus pass.

Although bus companies have said they would be willing to talk about working together, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said it was not an option worth pursuing at present.

He said: “We have previously looked at the possibility of multi-operator tickets and have held discussions with those who operate services, however a barrier to most schemes has been agreeing how collected fares would be distributed.

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“The nature of the market in Suffolk means there has been limited opportunity for these tickets to exist, but with moves forward in technology we may be able to find a more viable solution.”

A spokesman for Ipswich Buses said: “We are always looking at ways of making bus travel more flexible, convenient and cost-effective for our customers in Ipswich.

“Therefore, if Suffolk County Council as the Local Transport Authority and the other public transport operators expressed support for such a scheme, we would be happy to participate in discussing this in detail.

“In terms of good governance, Local Transport Authorities provide an important role in safeguarding the public interest.”

First Group, which runs Eastern Counties, already takes part in the Norwich and Colchester schemes and would be expected to take part in any joint ticketing in Suffolk towns too.

A spokesman for First Eastern Counties Buses said, “As a commercial bus operator we offer a wide range of tickets to accommodate the various needs of our passengers which, in most situations, satisfy the journeys made on a day to day basis.

“However, we are aware that, from time to time, there could be a requirement for a multi-operator ticket that would allow travel across all operators’ services.

“This option could be explored through a partnership headed up by Suffolk County Council and with agreement by all other bus operators running services in the area”

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