Bus users question credibility of trial timetable on under-threat Chambers service to and from Sudbury
Villagers have demanded clarity on planned changes to an under-threat bus, stating the proposed trial for a reduced timetable cannot realistically judge demand for the service if local needs are not met.
Chambers confirmed it will implement a cut-down schedule for the 84 service, which travels between Sudbury and Colchester, via Nayland, Stoke-by-Nayland, Leavenheath and Assington, for a trial period from March 29 until the end of the July school term.
The company stated insufficient passenger numbers meant the current service is no longer financially viable, but agreed to trialling a new timetable, after hearing concerns from villages about the impact losing the bus would have on rurally-isolated passengers and schoolchildren.
James Finch, Suffolk county councillor for the Stour Valley, said he was pleased a compromise solution had been reached, adding: “It is now important that all share this revised slimmed down timetable so that our buses are efficiently used, in particular by those that really need them.
“The old adage now really does hold true for this important trial period – use it or lose it.”
But regular 84 bus passenger Terry Smyth, a resident of High Road in Leavenheath, said he believed the trial would have “no methodological credibility” unless additional bus stops are introduced to the route, to accommodate the most populated areas.
Dr Smyth told the Free Press there needed to be a clear commitment from Suffolk County Council to add a bus stop at the junction of High Road and the A134, arguing the stop outside the Hare and Hounds pub is not easily accessible for people living on the Honey Tye end of the village.
“Most people in Leavenheath live at this end,” he said. “From our point of view, it’s about how people are going to reach the bus.
“They’re talking about a trial period, but if they’re going to measure its effectiveness by passenger numbers, it won’t be a valid method, unless they put these extra bus stops in.
“The Hare and Hounds stop is at least a mile’s walk along the A134. It’s a nasty road, because some sections of pavement are quite narrow and there are a lot of lorries that come along there.
“We have got a lot of people struggling to be independent. I don’t think the bus companies and the people making these decisions understand that.
“It’s only as you live here longer that you appreciate these services are absolutely critical to some people.
“There has been a lot of peculiar ambiguity all the way through this and there’s a lack of clarity about what’s going on. The level of anxiety is significant, which could be avoided with a little bit of common sense.”
In response to the concerns, Jeremy Cooper, chief executive of Go-East Anglia, which owns Chambers in Sudbury, said: “We got a commitment from Suffolk County Council to provide new bus stops, which we consider essential, before we proposed a change to the route in Levenheath.
“Regular bus users are well aware that only about 20 per cent of stops are actually shown in printed timetables as listing all stops would be impractical.”
More by this authorThomas Malina