Councillor calls cuts to key bus service to and from Sudbury 'a kick in the teeth' to elderly passengers
Cuts to a key bus service to and from Sudbury have been described as “a kick in the teeth” and discriminatory to elderly passengers who may face new charges due to the changes.
Concerns have been raised after Beestons confirmed a reduced timetable for bus 91, which runs between Sudbury and Ipswich, via Great Cornard, Newton Green, Hadleigh and Hintlesham, will take effect beginning next Monday, while fares will increase from Sunday.
The new schedule will see buses decrease from every 90 minutes to every two hours, and the first off-peak service of the day will be moved half an hour earlier to 9.15am, before bus pass eligibility commences at 9.30am.
This means concessions will either have to buy a ticket to Newton Green, then get off and back on the bus to use their pass, or wait until the next bus leaves Sudbury at 11.15am, which does not reach Ipswich until the afternoon.
The service’s route through Great Cornard will also no longer go to Carsons Drive and the shopping centre, instead stopping at Head Lane and Poplar Road.
The changes come just two years after buses were previously reduced through many of these villages, following the cancellation of Beestons services 5 and 91C.
A statement from Beestons said: “Due to insufficient funding for both local bus services and school transport, which has led to widespread cuts, we have had to make minor changes to our timetable in order to accommodate all bus users.”
Sudbury councillor Jack Owen, Labour’s spokesman for transport at Suffolk County Council, said the effect of the changes on bus pass holders is “massively inconvenient” and “totally wrong”, while the new route would cut off a considerable slice of Great Cornard.
“I am really disappointed with the cuts to this important route,” he said.
“Beestons have already replaced a local service between Sudbury and Great Cornard and local people are really angry about it. This is another kick in the teeth.
“I do sympathise with bus operators like Beestons, who have faced relentless cuts from the Tories at Suffolk County Council.
“However, in changing the start of the timetable to 9.15am, they are discriminating against older people whose bus pass isn’t eligible until after 9.30am.
“Consequently, people needing to reach our county town in the morning may no longer be able to do so.
“I hope Beestons revisit their plans, as this is clearly not sustainable or practical.”
Suffolk County Council has come under fire in recent months for its withdrawal of subsidies for 23 bus services in Suffolk, but a council spokeswoman said bus 91 is not one of those, and claimed the changes to the service are a completely commercial decision by Beestons.
One regular user of bus 91, a woman in her 70s from Great Cornard, told the Free Press the changes to the route would likely prevent her from using the service, affecting her ability to reach the doctor’s surgery in Sudbury.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I understand that the buses aren’t always full, but we need something.
“I live off Carsons Drive. I don’t think I would be able to walk to Poplar Road. I would have to walk up to Head Lane, and I reckon it would take a good half an hour. I couldn’t make it.
“I just can’t believe it. It’s going to cut off a whole lot of people. It’s made me feel quite ill.”