Suffolk task force to look at rural transport
A task force is to be formed to assess transport in two rural Suffolk districts.
Councillors at Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils will form a panel which will include scrutiny of areas like bus and train services, as well as community transport options. It could also look at transport such as bike rental schemes and taxi provision.
It is likely to have a strong focus on availability of transport for the most rural parts of the two districts, but would not exclude the districts’ towns either.
Keith Welham, co-chairman of the two councils’ joint scrutiny committee which voted by seven votes to four in favour of a task group being formed, said: “Transport is delivered in rural districts by many different operators – that’s not just the county council but by volunteer groups and many others.
“What we have found is that there are some gaps where there is absolutely no transport available at all, so the idea across the two districts is to look at what is provided, where there are problems, where there is a good service, where there is no service at all, bringing that information together and come up with recommendations for improving the situation in places where there is a poor or no service at all.”
Councillor Welham added that “nobody is doing anything at the present” on the issue.
It is understood findings from the task group will also be fed into Suffolk County Council’s Bus Back Better programme, which aims to improve bus services across the county and simplify fares and tariffs.
Cllr Paul Ekpenyong said there were additional benefits of having good transport, such as economic growth, business health and wellbeing for people in rural communities.
However, some councillors raised concerns over how much change the two districts could enact given transport is the responsibility of the county council.
Cllr Simon Barrett said: “What are we going to achieve? What are the end goals to look at transport bearing in mind we are not responsible for transport?”
There were also fears that it may generate a lot of work for little return in driving improvements.
Members from across the two districts will now be sought to form the group, and an action plan drawn up for its activity going forward.
A timeline for it to report its findings has not yet been given.