Suffolk County Council announced a month ago that it intended to cut the Free Ipswich Shuttle bus at the end of July. Transferring the funding received from County Council staff car park charges to a trial free Park and Ride fares for County Council staff travelling into Ipswich by car.
There has been no public consultation, no consultation with Ipswich Borough Council, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils who are about to move into Endeavour House, and no consultation with the numerous Ipswich public and private organisations who benefit from this bus service. The impact on the Ipswich town centre economy has not been considered at all by the Tory County Council. And importantly no Equality Impact Assessment of the impact this cut will have on the disabled users
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 costs only £73,000 a year to run and offers a free round town bus ride for everyone from 7am to 7pm Monday -Friday. Ipswich Borough Council adds £20,000 to the pot to cover the extra lunchtime journeys and to extend the morning and evening trips. 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.
The shuttle bus now has an established, and much increased from its original 2004, usage. From the beginning it was also a free public bus, and is now a well-loved service for work, shopping and school trips. Unlike the Administration who have made no effort to establish the numbers using the bus, the Ipswich Labour Councillors have.
Sandra says “Through undertaking our own surveys we know that in morning and evening peak times between 350 and 400 passengers travel from within the town itself to and from their place of work on it. Not just the Public Sector campus, but to various workplaces around the route. Lunchtimes between 90 and 150 travel daily into town, and in so doing make a significant impact on Ipswich economic prosperity. If each person spends, on average £10 each trip in town, then the shuttle bus adds annually on average £390,000 to the Ipswich retailer’s economy. I want to challenge the Tory run County Council on Thursday if it is their intention to depress the towns lunchtime economy and add to the existing peak time congestion”
In response, residents, retailers, staff from both councils and numerous other organisations near the Ipswich Public Sector Campus joined in with the County Labour Group petition to ‘Save Ipswich Free Shuttle’. Around 1000 signatures have been collected and these are to be presented to Cllr James Finch, Cabinet Member for Transport on Thursday before Full Council. Users have sent in numerous comments, outlining how valuable this service is.
In response to the Tory County Council’s total lack of engagement, Suffolk County Labour has submitted a Motion for 20 July Full Council in addition to presenting the petition to Cllr James Finch, Cabinet Member for Highways and Public Transport before Full Council.
Sandra concludes “We want to see the shuttle bus service reviewed, with its route revised to provide links to points of interest such as the waterfront, the university, the college all of which have changed significantly since the shuttle began in 2004. Let’s enhance it and relaunch it, not cut it.”
The motion states;
This Council recognises the importance of the Ipswich Free Shuttle bus to all employees of Suffolk County, Ipswich Borough, Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils, the Crown Court, and other public and private sector organisations based in and around the Ipswich Public Sector Campus.
This Council is concerned that the complete cessation of the service will have a major detrimental impact on the Ipswich town centre economy and result in an increase in peak time traffic congestion.
Therefore, this Council calls on the administration to reverse the decision to immediately discontinue the Ipswich Free Shuttle Bus and instead commit to:
- Extending the current contract for a further six months.
- Undertaking a full review of how best to retain the Ipswich Free Shuttle Bus in partnership with Ipswich Borough Council, Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils, and any other public or private sector organisations with an interest in its continued service.
Engage with, and take full account of, the views of representative user groups and the public, on the design of the new Ipswich Free Shuttle Bus service.