Suffolk County Council has today announced the end of the Ipswich Free Shuttle, without any public consultation or like for like replacement bus for Ipswich residents.
Suffolk County Council collects £300,000 a year from its staff car park charges and this funds the Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St. Edmunds free shuttle buses. Ipswich shuttle bus 38 costs £73,000 a year to run and offers a free round town bus ride for everyone from 7am to 7pm Monday -Friday. Originally set up in 2004 when the County Council moved from County Hall St. Helens Street to Endeavour House, Russell Road, it is popular with residents and employees of both Suffolk County and Ipswich Borough Councils.
Suffolk County Council has consulted its staff, but not the Ipswich Borough Council staff, or the public. Instead it will now use the money collected from staff car parking to provide free Park & Ride journeys for County Council staff travelling to work from outside Ipswich. Council employees living in Ipswich and the public must pay if they want to travel by bus to get around town. The free shuttle buses in Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds will continue unaffected.
Cllr Gage said “I was aware that the existing contract with Ipswich Buses was coming to an end, but given the shuttle bus does not cost the County Council anything, and provides Ipswich residents who work at the council offices, or want to just get across town a free, frequent service, I had assumed the contract would be extended. I had no idea the Tory County Council would drop Ipswich Buses yet again and make the 38 shuttle their latest cut.
“I have asked Tory run Suffolk County Council how many employees and Ipswich residents will be affected by this cut, and I’m told they don’t know. I get the impression they don’t care. I asked why their employees living in Ipswich are not also getting free bus travel to work, and was told they would be expected to walk or cycle. What happens if you are not fit enough to walk or cycle up to three miles, or have a disability. Seems a bit unfair to Ipswich residents to me.
“While Suffolk County Council replaces the free shuttle with a six month trialled free Park and Ride just for its staff who live outside of Ipswich, Ipswich residents, Ipswich Buses and Ipswich Borough Council staff miss out. And what happens if the free Park & Ride stops after its six-month trial? Looks like the Tory County Council will be putting the staff parking charges into its ever increasing reserves.”