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Plans to improve Suffolk's bus services to go ahead despite Government funding setback



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Multi-operator ticketing, bus lane enforcement and work tackling bus delay spots are still planned to go ahead in Suffolk despite the Government failing to fund the county’s bus service improvement plan.

Suffolk County Council’s £77million bid for a host of measures to improve bus services was rejected by the Department for Transport in April, a ‘lack of ambition’ being cited by Whitehall for the snub.

But despite the funding setback, the council has this week confirmed it will be pursuing four priority measures in its bus service improvement plan (BSIP).

Endeavour House in Russell Road, Ipswich. Headquarters of Suffolk County Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils. Picture: Jason Noble.
Endeavour House in Russell Road, Ipswich. Headquarters of Suffolk County Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils. Picture: Jason Noble.

It includes introducing multi-operator ticketing, greater enforcement of misuse of bus lanes, tackling bus lane spots which are frequently snared up, and easier journeys cross-borders.

The authority will work with operators to map future services as part of the Enhanced Partnership plan of bus provision.

Cllr Alexander Nicoll, Conservative deputy cabinet member for transport and chairman of the Enhanced Partnership programme, said: “While the recent DfT bus funding announcement was disappointing, we and are partners are getting on with the job of improving bus provision across Suffolk.

Cllr Alexander Nicoll, Conservative deputy cabinet member for transport and chairman of the Enhanced Partnership programme. Picture: Simon Lee.
Cllr Alexander Nicoll, Conservative deputy cabinet member for transport and chairman of the Enhanced Partnership programme. Picture: Simon Lee.

“This will be progressed by the Enhanced Partnership, through which we aim to deliver more effective services.

“Working with bus operators and other partners, including district councils, we are committed to supporting communities across Suffolk, help meet our transition to net zero, and create economic opportunities that benefit everyone.”

The multi-operator ticketing option is to begin with a trial on a suitable route later this year before being rolled out further.

The council said most operators already use the same ticket machines and some participate in existing schemes elsewhere.

Keith Welham, spokesman for transport and highways with the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group. Picture: Simon Lee.
Keith Welham, spokesman for transport and highways with the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group. Picture: Simon Lee.

It will include a reimbursement mechanism, incorporate other payment methods and boost the Endeavour Card for youngsters, the authority said.

For bus lane enforcement, the council’s cabinet will seek additional powers from the Government later this year as part of ongoing plans to obtain powers over enforcing traffic offences, and if approved will be implemented next year.

Operators have reported bus lanes where delays are frequently experienced as part of a series of workshops.

Measures to free-up those jams include more enforcement and adjusting traffic light signals.

For cross-border routes, a ‘customer charter’ is to be drawn up with operators in neighbouring counties of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex to help ease those journeys.

The council said existing funding would be used to pay for the schemes, but could also continue to explore grants and other external funding opportunities.

Keith Welham, spokesman for transport and highways with the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said the Conservative administration “owes it to our residents to do much better”.

“Agreeing an Enhanced Partnership that will make public transport available to all our residents will not be easy without the Bus Back Better funding,” he said.

“We are disappointed socially necessary services have not been prioritised, nor establishing significant transformational changes and key corridors, as was originally outlined in their BSIP.

“If we had been more ambitious, this administration would’ve been able to properly invest in a strategy for all.”