Cabinet backs £50 million bid to boost Suffolk bus services

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A £50 million bid to transform bus services in Suffolk has been backed by county councillors.

Wider coverage, cheaper fares, improved ticketing, and better evening and weekend services are among proposals under the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) approved by Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet today and which will now be submitted to the Government by the end of the month.

Following on from the submission of the BSIP, the council, bus operators and other stakeholders will work together to establish a countywide Enhanced Partnership.

This will enable the BSIP proposals to be delivered, building on experience gained from the existing Ipswich Quality Bus Partnership.

Councillor Richard Smith, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Transport and Waste, said Bus Back Better is a real opportunity to revitalise bus services in Suffolk.

“An efficient bus network is key in providing a viable alternative to the private car and encouraging people on to public transport,” he said.

“Developing areas such as rural services, plus developing features like smart ticketing to improve the passenger experience, will help increase the use of public transport which in turn can reduce congestion in our towns and provide a cleaner and greener environment.

“Transport is a significant contributor to carbon emissions; increasing the use of sustainable transport will play an important role in achieving carbon reduction in Suffolk.”

The funding bid is being made to the government’s £3 billion fund under its Bus Back Better national bus strategy for England outside of London.

SCC will be asking for a minimum of £50m over three years - £15m each for the first two years and £20m for the third.

Proposed features of the BSIP include:

  • Reviewing service frequency on Suffolk key corridors, including evening and weekend services
  • Simplified services, including regular timetabled buses and ‘demand-responsive’ services
  • Consider expanding the experimental Katch electric demand-responsive bus, currently being trialled between Framlingham and Campsea Ashe for Wickham Market railway station to other rural areas
  • Identify and implement bus priority opportunities and changes to parking on key corridors, with particular focus on the ‘last mile’ where buses are delayed by congestion approaching key destinations
  • Lower fares for those aged up to 25
  • Contactless touch-on/touch-off ticketing, and daily fare caps
  • Multi-operator ticketing
  • Expanding rail and bus ticket options (PlusBus)
  • Develop existing park and ride sites as mobility hubs and identify new ones to serve rural areas or new development sites
  • Explore merging Ipswich’s two bus stations into one main hub

The bid will be submitted to the Government by October 31 for consideration.