35.1 Mr Jeremy Cooper, the Managing Director of Ipswich Buses gave a presentation to the Committee and explained that Ipswich Buses was an independent commercial company wholly owned by Ipswich Borough Council. Fares were not subsidised in any way and the money taken from fares, contracts and concessions covered the cost of the operation. Copies of the timetable in the North West area were available and it was also available on the website at www.ipswichbuses.co.uk.
35.2 Changes to some routes had taken place in May 2015 however, none of these were to routes in the North West of Ipswich. Ideally there should be frequent, direct services with logical connections and stops being within 5 minutes’ walk of residents doors to stops close to destinations such as supermarkets.
35.3 Promotional weekly tickets, £3.50 day tickets and group tickets had been introduced to give passengers better value. Some buses in the fleet were being improved with new livery, the installation of leather seats, wi-fi (on some routes) and three new buses were due to be launched on route No 9 on 7 October 2015. Real time information was now available at some bus stops, information was available on Facebook or twitter or to see when a bus would be arriving, travellers could use www.nextbuses.mobi by entering the postcode, available on the bus stop sign.
35.4 Smart cards were available from drivers which could be topped up on line and the company were working towards apps for mobiles and fare capping. The challenge was that more passengers would enter the Town Centre through Tower Ramparts Bus Station than use any of the car parks, in an effort to reduce congestion.
35.5 In respect of route No 19, Mr Cooper said that the fares taken on the original route had not covered the operational costs and the company could not subsidise any route which ran at a loss. Passenger numbers had now increased on the new half hourly routes and more revenue was being taken.
35.6 Councillor Goonan said that, as a bus user he thought that the bus service had improved and the £3.60 ticket was good value as more journeys could be made for one price.
35.7 Mr Cooper confirmed that £1.00 dog, day ‘Rover’ tickets were introduced on 3 September 2015 which allowed for all day, unlimited travel for a dog (when accompanied by a fare payer).
35.8 Discussion took place about the queues which form for the No 9 and 10 stops at the Tower Ramparts Bus station as, if it was raining the queue had to stand out in the open and travellers were getting wet. Mr Cooper said that when the refurbishment of the shopping centre was complete, some seats would be provided and he was aware that queuing was a problem at the Bus Station.
35.9 In respect of a resident reporting that buses on routes No 9 and No 10 were bunching up at one end of the North West area, Mr Cooper confirmed that the new timetable should stop this occurring. Drivers could be contacted mid route or be checked to see where on the route they were however, if there was flooding, an accident or roadworks then delays were out of the control of the bus company.
35.10 Further discussion took place about the old No 19 bus route and that the distance to the bus stops on the new route for many was more than 5 minutes’ walk and therefore isolated many residents. Mr Cooper reiterated that Ipswich Buses could only provide a service if costs were covered, the new service had more people using it and the power to deal with social needs rested with Suffolk County Council.
35.11 A resident asked for the financial statements to prove that the old No 19 service had not been cost effective and Mr Cooper agreed to provide the resident with the route costings which would show the shortfall covering the direct costs of which the criteria were driver costs and fuel. He confirmed that the new No 19 route was just short of covering the direct costs, the southern part of the route was being well used and it was expected that the route would develop further and cover the revenue costs.
35.12 The Chair thanked Mr Cooper for his presentation and for his attendance at the meeting.