When I moved to Wickham Market 8 years ago one of the main boxes ticked was public transport. 2 buses an hour to Ipswich, late evening and Sunday buses which I used, particularly the 2255 from Ipswich at least twice a week as I played for a couple of pool teams, so that late bus 7 nights a week was extremely useful. By time I moved out of Wickham close to 3 years ago 2 buses an hour had become 1. No Sunday and evening buses and the service to Framlingham had all but disappeared. Even the short lived Anglian 164, which was just really picking up was scrapped without a second thought by the new Operations manager. Now of course it's 1 bus every 2 hours in Wickham Market, a mere shadow of what it was,
When I moved here I was actually driving, and drove regularly to Halesworth to connect up with the bus network. I noted the daily local bus and indeed used it quite often, as if you don't use these things you lose them. Or in my case it seems if you use it you lose them anyway. When I could no longer drive I found out about Suffolk Links, and regular readers will know how much I value that service, which is designed to link people with no bus service to the transport network. However, 3 weeks ago our service bus was scrapped, and Suffolk Links is also being radically altered. When Suffolk County Council told me it was "good news" the alarm bells sounded at a deafening volume. When a political statement says "good news" you know it is anything but.
I knew the areas served by Suffolk Links were changing, so I asked to see maps of the new areas. None were forthcoming. Instead I was invited to a public launch day a week before the new services start. 19 miles away in Woodbridge. If everyone who uses Suffolk Links wants to go there it will be impossible to book a minibus as its tough enough to book anyway in that area.. So it would appear the Council were anxious for me not to know about what's going on.
Now I know why. The new areas are based on the district and borough areas of Suffolk, because quite obviously people only want to travel within their own borough. On top of that some areas have got bigger meaning that 3 buses have been merged into 2. If you live at the extremities of these areas I have some bad news for you - you won't have a Saturday bus anymore and on some other days only a peak hour service. Let me give you an example of how this "good news" will take form.
Until last April if I wanted to go to Lowestoft I would get Suffolk Links Pathfnder into Halesworth, and get on the 62 to Lowestoft. Then the 62 was scrapped. So to get to Lowestoft I then had to get the minibus to Wangford, and get the 61 from there. It's also how I used to link up with the 146. Extremely useful. However I am no longer going to be servcd by the Pathfinder bus, which is being relocated to Bungay. So to get to Wangford I've now got to get the Loes bus to Halesworth. The Loes bus currently doesn't serve Halesworth and is the hardest of the buses I use to book. Quite often I need several alternatives and intimate knowledge of the service bus times is crucial. For example last week I needed to be in Yoxford to catch the 521 to catch the 1356 Leiston. The only time I could be picked up was 1100, and that was to Saxmundham! A round trip to Leiston - 9 miles away - was going to take 6 and a half hours. That was booking 5 days in advance. So you can see it's pretty popular. In fact I was told last week passenger numbers have increased 50% in the last year. That is the one of the 3 buses condensed into 2, and my new bus to Halesworth. If I'm fortunate enough to get a booking on that I'll need to change minibuses at Halesworth to get to Wangford, or get the 88A to Southwold and double back via a 45 min wait at Southwold.
It was even intimated that I might not be allowed to book minibuses to Halesworth as the new system means you get taken to your local "transport hub". It would appear one of these hubs is Darsham Station. So to get to Norwich for example I might get dropped in Darsham. If I'm lucky there might be a 521 to Halesworth, but that only runs every 3 hours, and then I'd have a 40 min wait at Halesworth for the 88. Or I'd have to get the train from Darsham to Halesworth, and the bus to Norwich from there. Oh yes another 40 min wait at Halesworth. And that's just getting there. To put it bluntly it's going to be pointless even trying to book, especially as up to 5 bookings a fortnight in advance are now going to be allowed. A lot of people who rely on these buses are going to be affected, and let's not forget these Links buses only exist because of the savage cuts to rural bus services in the first place.
These changes come into effect on June 13th. If from then on the only posts you see on here are railcam screenshots you'll know why. Oh - and before any smart Alec says I knew what is was like when I moved here I did - and it wasn't like this, just as it wasn't when I moved to Wickham Market. And people wonder why I'm so pro re-regulation. Good news? As Jim Royal would say "Good news my a***".
Speaking of screenshots check out my new Flickr page devoted to the in some cases spectacular railcam screenshots I capture. Well worth a look and a follow as there can be several addition a day. The link is in the side bar