Lockdown forces Ipswich Park and Ride to be suspended for second time
- Credit: Paul Geater
Park and Ride services in Ipswich are being suspended from next Monday because buses are now running virtually empty during lockdown.
Operator First Eastern Counties suspended the Park and Ride - which it runs as a commercial operation without financial support from Suffolk County Council - at the start of last March's lockdown.
It was only resumed in September, as the economy appeared to be opening up.
However, the November lockdown and - especially - the current restrictions that have been introduced have slashed the number of people using the service and the company has decided to withdraw the buses again.
The Park and Ride operates from car parks at Martlesham Heath and Copdock - and serves Ipswich Hospital as well as the town centre.
A suspension notice says it was brought in because of the lockdown and the government's current ban on non-essential travel.
Other services operated by the Ipswich Reds division of First Eastern Counties are continuing with government financial support to ensure essential workers can travel between their homes and workplaces.
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Russ Smith, operations manager at First Eastern Counties, said: “While we are in lockdown and with guidance to use buses for essential journeys only, we will be temporarily suspending Ipswich’s Park and Ride service.
"We are continuing to operate a full service across the majority of other services and so access to places such as Covid testing and vaccination centres is maintained, as are links to doctors surgeries, hospitals and other central workplaces.
“I would like to thank those who need to use the bus for travel for complying with the safety guidelines onboard our buses, including wearing a face covering (unless medically exempt) and adhering to the social distancing signage."
Meanwhile, Ipswich Buses is not planning to make any further changes to its timetables during the town at present.
It has cut some services that were aimed at carrying students to and from schools because most are not attending classes - but the current services are continuing to operate.
General manager Stephen Bryce said: "We are now carrying about 25% of the passengers we did before the pandemic - they need the buses to make essential journeys around the town."
That level of passenger numbers makes it easier for people to observe social distancing while travelling on the bus and the company has introduced new cleaning regimes to ensure its buses are as safe as possible.
It has been given "Good to Go" recognition by the tourist body Visit Britain in recognition of its work to make its vehicles as safe as possible for passengers and staff in the wake of the pandemic.