Future of 23 bus services under threat as Suffolk County Council announces plans to cut subsidies
Twenty-three Suffolk bus services are under threat, after a council announced it was axing its subsidy to those routes in cost-cutting measures.
Suffolk County Council introduced a new framework last month to assess how viable the 61 bus services it subsidises are, utilising passenger numbers and the cost of subsidies.
It has now confirmed the 23 services to score the lowest will have its subsidy pulled, saving the authority around £340,000.
Among the affected services are the 112 from Hadleigh to Sudbury, services 90 and 94A between Hadleigh and Ipswich, the 971 from Hadleigh to Colchester, and the 375 from Alpheton to Bury St Edmunds.
Talks with those bus operators are now under way to establish which ones can continue running their services commercially.
Those conversations will continue until the end of July.
If the current operators cannot fund those routes, then a dialogue will begin with other operators, parish, town and district councils to find other means to help keep services running.
Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for highways, transport and rural issues, said: “We need to ensure we spend public money effectively. In reviewing these services against our funding criteria, we have had to make tough decisions.
“However, the implementation of this new criteria has enabled these decisions to be made in a robust and transparent way and ensures we consider key measures before making tough calls.
“We are committed to working with bus operators and partners to explore other sources of funding to support these services once our funding ceases.
“We are also open to conversations with community groups and partners to see if local solutions can be developed.
“I recognise the importance of passenger transport, and I remain committed to ensuring that Suffolk’s residents have access to it.
“For many people, that may be a shock for their local bus service, but we have got time to have that conversation.”
There are 211 services running in Suffolk, of which 61 are subsidised.
The 23 routes under threat equate to 0.7 per cent of all bus journeys in Suffolk last year, according to the county council’s data.
Sarah Adams, leader of the Labour group at Suffolk County Council, said: “Yet another cut. Yet another attack on rural communities. Yet another example of the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.
“The Tories say they understand the importance of passenger transport, while withdrawing funding from a third of their subsidised routes. This is on top of the 60 per cent they have already cut in just 10 years.
“It is this sort of empty platitude that erodes public trust in our politicians – the council is no longer seen as being on the side of the residents they are supposed to represent.”
Caroline Page, transport spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: “The criteria for making the cuts may be new and fairer, but saying this does not obscure the problems these cuts will cause to rural bus users with few other options.
“Remember, Suffolk’s administration has also just cut bus-pass entitlement on the ‘Connecting Communities’ services that will replace cancelled buses. This is a disastrous double whammy for the rural old and disabled, and will add to our problems of rural loneliness and disadvantage.
“Suffolk has just declared a climate emergency. Are we expecting everyone who lives in our countryside to have a car?”
More by this authorJason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter
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