Community bus service to Sudbury saved thanks to collective team effort
The future of a vital bus service, which was put in jeopardy after having its funding axed, has been secured.
It comes after Suffolk Norse and Suffolk County Council decided to withdraw the 112 service – and its subsidy – from Hadleigh to Sudbury.
The move prompted community bus operator GoStart to step in and take over the twice-weekly service, starting next month, to serve villages from Bildeston to Sudbury.
Due to a lack of demand, the route will no longer serve Hadleigh, but will instead begin its journey from Bildeston, before stopping in Chelsworth, Monks Eleigh, Brent Eleigh, Little Waldingfield, Great Waldingfield and Sudbury on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Expressing his delight at the achievement, John Philips, chairman of the board of trustees at GoStart, said: “I’m pleased to say that we have obtained confirmation from traffic commissioners that route 112 can continue to operate from April 1, using a 16-seater bus operated by GoStart.
“This is a community initiative and I hope it will be supported by the community.”
The scheme has won the support of Bryn Hurren, Babergh district councillor for Boxford, along with county councillors Robert Lindsay and Jack Owen, who have both pledged to allocate a portion from their locality budgets to help fund the project.
Praising the scheme, Cllr Lindsay highlighted the large number of people who have been dependent on the service.
“This is great news,” he said.“Although the county council as a body appears to have washed its hands with supporting small rural bus services, those of us who live in isolated villages know that the passengers on this bus have no other options for getting to town.
“I’ve met the passengers when riding the bus – many are disabled, elderly or simply can’t afford to drive.”
Cllr Owen said the scheme would help to support both rural communities and the local economy.
“I’m happy to contribute financially to kick-start this service, since it brings people into Sudbury on market day and so benefits the market and town, as well as the passengers,” he said. “We need to support bus services wherever we can.”
Commending the collective efforts of the community, Cllr Hurren (pictured) added: “I’m delighted this is going ahead; it just shows what a little bit of determination can do when people put their minds to it.
“We’re very grateful to GoStart for taking this on and I hope passengers in my patch will now support the bus by using it.”
In response to the move, Andrew Reid, cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs at Suffolk County Council, said the authority had hoped it could secure the operation of the service.
“Working with the community, providers and other stakeholders, it was our ambition to find a long-term solution to keep the service running.
“Unfortunately, no solution was found for the 112 bus service and, as a result, the contract was due to expire in June.
“Suffolk Norse has taken the decision to withdraw from the contract and terminate the service from the end of March.
“A decreasing budget, paired with some operators choosing to withdraw services as a result of commercial decisions, has created a lot of uncertainty for passengers.”
He added: “We have not given up on finding solutions for rural communities and are still working hard to find long-term solutions for rural transport across Suffolk.”
More by this authorPriya Kingsley-Adam