Passengers call for timetable change on 'very friendly' Pakenham, Ixworth Thorpe and Great Barton to Bury St Edmunds bus service
Pakenham residents are calling for a timetable change to their weekly bus service as they say spending nearly four hours in Bury St Edmunds is too long
The 300 minibus service runs on Wednesdays, starting in Ixworth Thorpe and picking up in Fen Road, Pakenham, at 9.40am before arriving in Bury St Edmunds at 10am.
Passengers are full of praise for the Suffolk County Council-sponsored service operated by Stowmarket Minibus and Coach Hire, but they are calling for its 1.45pm return time to be changed on the grounds the – mainly elderly – customers need less time to complete their shopping.
Suffolk County Council said it is happy to consider a timetable change but there is a legal requirement for a 70-day notice period to the Traffic Commissioner, which may accept a shorter notice change.
Sue Harnor, who lives in Fen Road, has used the minibus regularly since villagers discovered its existence.
She said: "There was no bus at all for a while, then Suffolk County Council gave the contract to Stowmarket Minibus and Coach Hire but nobody told us. We kept seeing this minibus go past and this went on for some months until residents stopped the bus and asked, to discover it was the 300 bus.
"The next week he had lots of customers – he couldn't believe it – and we started using it again.
"The driver asked if we were happy with the time and we said no. He said 'when do you want to come back?' and after that every week he would say to us 'is 12 o'clock okay?' when he dropped us in Bury. We would then agree the return time.
"It was all ticking on quite nicely, but then the driver was told he'd got to stick to 1.45pm."
Sue said this was a particular problem during the cold winter weather and for those keen to minimise potential Covid-19 exposure during the pandemic.
"It is very cold at this time of year so we try to persuade everyone to go somewhere for a warm cup of tea while waiting to return.
"But why have we got to stick to 1.45pm? Our driver was completely happy to bring us back earlier. This is a service for people and why are we not taken into account?" said Sue.
"The 300 service is a very friendly thing. We have six-eight-10 passengers every week. It is more than a bus service. We are all friends on the bus and help each other, which is brilliant in this day and age."
Villagers raised the timetable issue with Thingoe North Suffolk County Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger in October.
Cllr Hopfensperger said: “This is a registered local bus service and the operator can be penalised by the Traffic Commissioner if they don’t adhere to the formal timetable, even though the informal arrangement has been agreed with all the people who travelled in to town in the morning - there is a chance, however remote, that someone may want to use the published timetable return leg as a one-way trip.
“However, if the current arrangement is what users want then we are happy to consider a timetable change.
“There is a legal requirement for a 70-day notice period to the Traffic Commissioner for bus service changes but in a case like this they may accept a shorter notice change as it is what current users want, and we can speak to the operator about arranging a suitable alternative timetable and change date."