Sandra, Pat and Ann talk about transport

Sudbury bus station.
Sudbury bus station.

For many, jumping on a bus is a rare treat, or not as the case may be, but for some it is an essential part of their daily life.

For a group of ladies who regularly use the bus, the new station plans in Sudbury are not about the redevelopment of the Hamilton Quarter.

As important as this may be, instead their focus is on whether their lives will be improved or made more difficult by the changes.

At their weekly coffee meet up in the town centre the ladies discussed the current challenges they face and how they fear things will only get worse if the split-hub plans put forward are given the go ahead.

It goes without saying a large proportion of the visitors to Sudbury’s new health centre are elderly residents, while the percentage of those needing bus travel to get to the centre is equally favoured towards an older generation.

Therefore any link to the health centre is key for an older bus user.

Recently Chambers has announced it is to increase the frequency of services to the health centre after the failure of the Chaucer and Claremont Avenue link-road service.

For Sandra Curtis, who lives in Sycamore Road, Great Cornard, this is a major improvement as a routine check-up can be a stressful day-long venture.

“It’s a four hour round trip to the health centre by bus,” she said.

Her friend Pat Laithwaite from Bush Grove in Sudbury, added: “The time it takes her to get there and back is ridiculous.”

Unfortunately for Mrs Curtis there is little alternative, with no car and unable to face the 40 minute walk there and back she is left with the bus service.

Mrs Curtis said many were forced into using expensive taxis, adding that the queue at the health centre taxi rank showed the cab companies were in demand from those needing to get to the out-of-town centre.

“It costs £14 to get to the health centre via taxi, the taxi rank is making a killing from this,” she said.

Describing herself as an independent woman she says she refuses to be reliant on other people to offer her lifts.

The other option is to use the community bus service GoStart.

Mrs Curtis said she had looked at applying for the service but felt that she did not meet any of the criteria and also questioned whether young mums unable to get to a bus stop were able to use the service.

John Phillips of GoStart said it offers a range of services including dial-a-ride, car and MPV services and group hire and community bus services.

He said: “I can well understand the concerns about location of bus station but more importantly the lack of joined up services which mean people are having difficulty getting to New Clinic and even more difficulty getting to Papworth or Addenbrooke’s.”

He said he would be happy to speak with Mrs Cutis about whether she would qualify to use the service.

Recently the Siam Surgery at the centre, in response to patients’ requests, extended its opening times, running from 6pm to 7.45pm on Mondays.

However Mrs Curtis said this is a lost opportunity for bus users as the return service from the centre stops at 6pm.

For Mrs Curtis, her day starts at 10.45am, catching the bus at Mauldon Court in great Cornard.

The four-hour round trip is assuming there are no problems with any of the four buses it takes to get there and back, with only a small margin of error.

The group were all opposed to the new split-hub plans for the town.

Ann Moore from Highfield Road in Sudbury, struggled to see the benefit, stating most buses would still have to go round the one way system, whichever hub they stopped at.

She added: “If parked in the bus park the bus is going to have to go round town to get back to Girling Street.”

They were in agreement that having to walk from Great Eastern Road across to Girling Street to catch another service was a bad idea.

“If we have to go to split venues the poor old ladies will never pick their bus up on time,” said Mrs Laithwaite.

They questioned whether or not the walk between the two hubs would actually force users to walk more than the 400m that is the advised limit for bus stations to town centres.

Indeed, a quick check on an online map suggests this is the case.

This distance was one of the major reasons that plans to use the car park in front of the Kingfisher Leisure Centre and a transport hub by the train station were rejected.

Mentioned at a recent Sudbury Town Council meeting was the fact that only two per cent of the local population are using bus services.

“They said it as though we are not worth thinking about,” said Mrs Curtis.

“But that two per cent is their bread and butter. The people that come in to do their shopping.

“They should not be dismissive about the two per cent. That is arrogant.”

After hearing about the plans the group of women have been busy letting all fellow bus users know about the proposals and say they will stand up for what they believe in, ready to oppose plans they say are not built around the interests of the bus users themselves.