Rural villagers voice frustration at planned reduction to Chambers 84 bus service to and from Sudbury
A Sudbury bus company at the centre of objections over its plans to reduce rural services has met village and parish representatives and has agreed to make amendments to its original proposals.
Jeremy Cooper, chief executive of Go-East Anglia, which owns Chambers in Sudbury, has said he will add extra journeys on to bus timetables for a trial period.
It comes after a meeting with parish councillors from Nayland & Wissington, Stoke-by-Nayland, Assington, county councillor James Finch and Simon Barnett, passenger transport manager from Suffolk County Council.
In a letter published on the Stoke-by-Nayland, Boxford, Leavenheath, Nayland, Polstead, Bures and Assington Facebook noticeboard, Mr Cooper said he will add an additional journey in each direction on the 84A on Thursdays for Sudbury market day.
He said: “I am not proposing to provide any additional off-peak journeys for High Road in Leavenheath, other than the school time buses.
“If there is money available from the county or the parishes, we can, of course, expand what are offering.
“All of these journeys are experimental while alternative solutions are found and we need to have another discussion after Easter about whether we can run all of them once the school holidays start, and in light of any progress with taxi or community bus services.”
His amendments are due to be discussed at a parish council meeting at Stoke-by-Nayland Village Hall on March 3.
It comes after Chambers ran a public consultation last month suggesting changes to key routes, including school routes, and new routes to offset planned cuts. The consultation closed on January 27, with changes proposed to take place from March 23.
Villagers have been voicing their concerns and are unhappy with proposed cuts to the 84 bus route, as well as the lack of bus stops serving Leavenheath.
Dr Terry Smyth, from High Road, Leavenheath, said: “How many people will be able to walk from the most populated side of Leavenheath to the least populated side to catch a bus, in the rain and wind along the busy A134?
“We are being presented with a case that is wholly based on economics, with no reference to social needs.
“Has anyone taken the slightest trouble to analyse the present and future demographics of the village? It just feels as if decisions have been taken without adequate discussion.”
In a statement, Mr Cooper told the Free Press: “We will continue to provide the 784 service along the A134, which we believe will serve the needs of many of those who used the 84, with new stops provided at Leavenheath and Nayland.
“We have made a number of adjustments to our plan as a result of points made by the public and have, consequently, needed to delay implementation until March 29.”
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said it is important that the 84 bus route receives good usage from people during the trial period announced by Chambers, or risk ending up “back at square one”.
Mr Cartlidge stated he had received a lot of correspondence from constituents relating to their concerns about the service.
“Working with James Finch, Suffolk County Council’s transport team and Chambers’ buses, we appear to have found a way forward that preserves village stopping services for the time being,” he said.
“While these are more limited than before, given the threat of a complete cessation of such services and the commercial reality faced by the provider, it is welcome that a level of bus connectivity will continue to be available in the most affected villages.
“However, I would emphasise that the new configuration is for a trial period up to the school summer holidays and, therefore, it really will be a case of villagers using their service, or finding we are back at square one without a bus stopping in their villages at all.
“Of course, I am keenly aware that there is a wider policy challenge here. I was, therefore, pleased to hear, in the Government’s £5 billion infrastructure plans announced on Tuesday, that extra funding was promised for bus services in the regions outside London.
“I will be keen to work with Suffolk County Council and other stakeholders to see what more can be done to access this funding, and to find more sustainable transport solutions for our rural communities.”
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