Cuts to numerous bus lines to and from Sudbury Bus Station in the coming weeks have resulted in frustration and concerns that the elderly and infirm will be hit hardest by the changes.
Service providers have sought to reassure bus users that transport options will remain available, following the withdrawal of a number of services for south Suffolk and north Essex over the next month.
The Suffolk Free Press has received confirmation from Beestons that Service 5, the main service running between Sudbury and Great Cornard, will be cancelled from September 4, as will Service 91C, which currently serves Sudbury, Hadleigh and Hintlesham.
Beestons says its 91 bus line will be routed from this date to accommodate most of the current stops on these two lines, with buses arriving once every 90 minutes.
But this has been criticised for reducing the frequency of services from the previous level of two buses an hour, which critics say will have an adverse effect on those who do not have other means of transport.
Sudbury town councillor Luke Cresswell said: “Once again, local people are faced with cutbacks in public transport.
“Once again, it’s those without access to private cars, most notably the elderly and families with children, who will be most affected.
“For those living in Great Cornard, getting to Sudbury’s long-promised Health Centre will be made even more difficult, time-consuming and expensive.
“Reliable and sustainable public transport is a vital component of the quality of life for many of us. It’s high time Suffolk County Council, as our local transport authority, began to recognise this.”
Regular bus user Elizabeth Anderson echoed this view. She said: “Our service has already been reduced from three buses a few years ago to two an hour.
“This, I feel, would be a step backwards in services, as there are many elderly and infirm people or those without a car who use this service regularly, as I do.”
Last week, the Town Of Sudbury Twitter account tweeted at Suffolk On Board, Suffolk County Council’s passenger transport feed, asking for action to increase services for Cornard residents struggling to access Sudbury Health Centre.
On Friday, Suffolk On Board replied: “We worked hard to try to find a solution to this, but ultimately they are all commercial services and we have no direct involvement.”
Meanwhile, the Free Press has also had confirmation that Services 11, 12 and 13, operated by Regal Busways, which goes between Sudbury and Halstead, via Bulmer and Gestingthorpe, are to be withdrawn.
In its place, Essex County Council has announced it will introduce Demand Responsive Transport (DaRT), a flexible bus service for Essex and south Suffolk, designed to divert on and off route within a set operating area.
Residents must phone or email at least two hours in advance and can be picked up from their home, a current bus stop or an agreed local landmark along the route.
Service F315, one of the DaRT services, will begin on August 29, replacing the 11, 12 and 13 at that point.
The county council said it decided to make this change after consulting with thousands of residents about restructuring supported bus services to ensure they did not cost the taxpayer more than £5 for each trip made.
Ray Gooding, the Essex County Council cabinet member responsible for passenger transport, said: “DaRT offers a great solution for areas where a traditional bus service does not always work.
“People will no longer have to just wait at a bus stop as you book the service in advance – so you know exactly when and where the bus will arrive.
“It is also completely responsive, meaning that the more people who use it, the better the service.
“DaRT offers a solution that we believe local communities will embrace, allowing the service to thrive.”
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