Suffolk bus service improvements plan outlined by council
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Ambitions have been outlined for how an overhaul of Suffolk's bus services will work — with improved services set to be in place by April next year.
The Government's £3billion Bus Back Better campaign aims to improve services nationwide, create more joined up ticketing and become more environmentally friendly.
Suffolk County Council's passenger transport team has said that will involve a new set up called 'enhanced partnerships' - effectively a joint effort between the council and bus operators to improve routes and passenger experiences, and is aimed at offering flexibility to meet the needs of communities.
While details of funding are yet to be finalised, £100,000 has already been confirmed for the county to uplift capacity and create a Bus Services Improvement Plan by the end of October this year, so that measures can be implemented in time for April 2022.
It is hoped the new set-up will deliver more carbon-friendly buses, expanded Park & Ride schemes, simpler price structures with a daily cost cap, 'multi-modal' tickets which would mean passengers could use multiple services or multiple operators on a ticket, and services running into evenings and weekends.
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It could also mean debit card tap-and-go or Oyster-card style ticketing is more prevalent on buses, and passengers changing buses won't have to purchase new tickets.
Tim Stephenson, head of passenger transport, said that "there seems to be a willingness from operators" and added: "It's an ambitious plan, and we are only limited by our own ambitions.
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"We have got a chance to try new things to attract people back into bus travel."
The level of funding from government is likely to determine the extent to which some measures can be implemented, but transport chiefs said they hoped it would enhance services - including school transport routes between their morning and afternoon pick ups, and hoped it would reduce nationwide cutbacks in bus subsidies.
Engagement with existing bus operators has already begun with a public consultation of around eight weeks likely to begin in June or July once more information has come from the Government.
Those responses will then help inform the final Bus Service Improvement Plan to be published in October and implemented from April 2022.