A representative of First Eastern Counties will attend to explain, and answer questions regarding, the changes made to routes 60, 61, 75, 76 and 77 and the introduction of route X7.
53.1 The Network Manager, First Eastern Counties Buses, Iain Rankine, explained that the changes to bus routes in the area were part of a wider review. This review had been held in the context of a challenging operating environment for bus companies, with vastly reduced subsidies from County Councils and increasing traffic and costs.
53.2 The Network Manager explained that new ticket machines allowed the company to see accurate information about where passengers boarded buses and the number of passengers using the services on Mildmay Road, Boyton Road, Cobham Road and Lindbergh Road were very low. Changes to routes had been designed to affect the lowest number of people and make the services as sustainable as possible. Mr Rankine said that he understood that the changes would make a difference to people’s lives and that it was not a decision which had been taken lightly but that the service had to be financially viable.
53.3 A resident asked whether any consultation had taken place. The Network Manager said that residents had not been consulted.
53.4 A resident asked whether journeys made with a bus pass were counted by the company’s new ticket machines. The Network Manager confirmed that these journeys were included in the figures considered.
53.5 A number of local residents gave examples of the impacts which the changes to the services would have, with a number of people raising the particular issues which would be faced by disabled people.
53.6 Councillor M Cook noted that Suffolk County Council had spent significant amounts of money on the Travel Ipswich project and junction improvements and asked whether this had helped with the traffic issues faced by the bus company. The Network Manager said that the traffic situation continued to be very difficult due to ever increasing numbers of cars, and that at best the works done by Suffolk County Council had prevented traffic from getting worse.
53.7 Councillor M Cook asked whether First Eastern Counties Buses had raised the changes to the routes with Suffolk County Council, and whether discussions about subsidy or further road improvements had been held. The Network Manager explained that Suffolk County Council would not, from his experience, have been willing to subsidise the routes to allow them to remain the same. Mr Rankine confirmed that Suffolk County Council had been told of the changes to the routes as part of the regulated process for such service alterations.
53.8 A resident asked whether Ipswich Borough Council might be able to subsidise a bus route. Councillor P Smart explained that there were restrictions on what Ipswich Borough Council could subsidise, noting that much of the routes affected by these change ran outside of the borough boundary. Councillor Smart added that in any case a tender process would need to be followed before the Council could subsidise a route, and that whilst Suffolk County Council had been informed of the changes in early September, the Borough Council had not been notified until much later and so had not had time to try to make any alternative arrangements.
53.9 Councillor P Smart reported that Ipswich Borough Council had contacted Suffolk County Council regarding the lack of buses on a Sunday and had offered to work with them on mitigating this, but as yet had not received a reply.
53.10 A resident noted that only a short time before these changes had been made a new Bus Shelter had been installed in Lindbergh Road. Councillor P Smart explained that bus shelter locations were agreed by Ipswich Borough Council and that when the shelter was installed, the Borough Council had not been informed of the proposed changes, although it was likely that Suffolk County Council had been.
53.11 Councillor Knowles commented that the system for providing public transport had broken down but that this was not the fault of the local authorities or even First Eastern Counties buses, noting that the issue was a national one. Councillor Knowles noted that many residents had lost a vital service as a result of the changes and asked that First Eastern Counties review whether the impact of the changes turned out to be what they had expected and then consider whether the decision should also be reviewed. The Network Manager confirmed that the passenger numbers would be monitored and agreed to work with other parties to see if anything could be done to help improve the services for those residents impacted by the changes.
53.12 A local resident presented the Network Manager with a petition containing 647 signatures, opposing the changes to the routes.
a) that the Council write to Suffolk County Council regarding the changes to the bus routes.
b) that the relevant Portfolio Holder, Councillor P Smart, be asked to work with Suffolk County Council with the aim of reinstating route 4 on a Sunday.