Six figure commitment agreed to pursue Suffolk bus improvement strategy

Bus in Ipswich

Suffolk County Council's cabinet has agreed to pursue the Government's Bus Back Better scheme - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Agreement has been given for Suffolk County Council to pursue a Government plan to overhaul bus services, which aims to significantly improve public transport provision.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet on Tuesday afternoon agreed to pursue the 'enhanced partnership' model of delivering bus services - effectively a set-up where the council and bus providers will jointly deliver improved services.

The scheme, called Bus Back Better, aims to enhance the availability of rural services, created simplified ticketing options, provide environmentally friendly buses, as well as ambitions for 'multi-modal' tickets, expanded Park & Ride services and a daily cost cap.

The decision means that costs of between £270,000 and £375,000 will now be met to undertake work on proposals, with a bus service improvement strategy to be published by October 31.

In the meantime, the council will engage with bus operators and transport groups on what measures are needed.

Suffolk county councillor Richard Smith Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk County Council's Conservative cabinet member for transport strategy, Richard Smith - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Richard Smith, Conservative cabinet member for transport strategy, said: "This national strategy provides a real opportunity for Suffolk to rejuvenate local bus services, to increase the use of sustainable transport, to improve rural services and to lead a shift towards zero emission vehicles.

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"This is an opportunity to relook at everything, and start freshly with optimism."

Mr Smith said the scheme will "deliver improvements to all areas of bus travel, for example fully integrated ticketing".

Concerns had been raised about how much community transport providers would be involved, which often deliver some of the key services on the most rural routes, but Mr Smith confirmed that community providers would "play their full part in the discussions".

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The commitment will also ensure the authority and bus providers in Suffolk remain eligible for any Covid-19 bus service support grants going forward.

Suffolk Green Party councillor Andrew Stringer

Andrew Stringer, leader of Suffolk County Council's opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

If the bus service improvement strategy is agreed in October, the enhanced partnership agreement must be ready in time for April 2022.

Andrew Stringer, leader of the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said it was right to take advantage of the offer from Government, but the details would be crucial.

He added: "We welcome any proper look at enhancing public transport, but this would be helpful if we had an oven-ready plan to de-carbonise transport already that we could pull down off the shelf and get cracking."

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