Villagers fearful of losing 'lifeline' bus service from Hadleigh to Sudbury as MP hopes to secure more transport funding
Rural bus users fearful of losing “a major lifeline” in and out of Sudbury have called for funding to the service to continue, amid ongoing concerns about public transport in the area.
A working party has been set up by regular passengers of the twice-weekly 112 bus service from Hadleigh to Sudbury, which is at risk of folding if its subsidy from Suffolk County Council is withdrawn.
The Suffolk Norse service, which runs every Tuesday and Thursday, was among 23 buses in the county originally earmarked to have its subsidy cut at the end of July, as part of cost-cutting measures.
The route, which serves Kersey, Semer, Bildeston, Chelsworth, Monks Eleigh, Brent Eleigh, Great Waldingfield and Little Waldingfield, was later one of five services to be granted a temporary funding extension.
Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Norse both confirmed the bus is contracted to run until next June.
But with no word of a long-term solution for the 112 service, the working party believes the future of the service remains threatened.
Brent Eleigh resident Karen Marshall, who is one of the frequent passengers on the 112, told the Free Press they want Suffolk County Council to understand how essential the service is to those who use it, and that she and several others would be “completely cut off” without it.
“In most cases, it’s the only bus service that the village has,” she said. “The majority of the 16 to 20 regular passengers do not drive.
“Therefore, this is a major lifeline for them to be able to get to the health centre and dentists, as well as being able to visit the shops, meet friends or, in some cases, visit elderly family members in the residential homes in Sudbury.
“Without this bus service, they would be unable to get out of their villages, as taxi fares are extremely expensive, due to the remoteness of where they live.
“In this present environment, it is very important that people can shop in the town centres to keep them going, and use the local market.
“It is also essential for people’s mental wellbeing to be able to socialise and leave their village from time to time.”
In response, Cllr Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for transport, said: “The 112 bus service will continue to operate until June 2020.
“The local community and their councillors are in discussions with bus operators to find alternatives to keep the services running. This extension allows them time to try and find a permanent solution that is financially viable.”
On Tuesday, South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge met Baroness Vere (pictured), the Government’s Transport Minister for Roads and Security, to raise concerns about the withdrawn bus routes, and how this could be helped by a new funding commitment.
Last month, the Government announced a pledge to invest an additional £220 million into public transport in the UK, and promised to pay an extra £30 million to local authorities in 2020/21 to improve current bus routes and restore lost services where needed.
Mr Cartlidge said: “Many constituents have contacted me in recent weeks over the withdrawal of certain bus routes in my constituency.
“I’m pleased Baroness Vere was able to confirm that Suffolk County Council is likely to receive significant extra funding for bus routes.
“My priority is, therefore, to work with Suffolk County Council to see what practical impact this new funding could have.
“I learned the Department for Transport will be announcing separate funding for piloting innovative schemes that might bring new ways to deliver local services.
“In my discussions with Suffolk County Council, I will also explore how we might bid into this pot, to examine the possibilities offered by private hire or community transport schemes as traditional services are found to be unsustainable,” he added.