Saturday 27 June 2020

Suffolk To Get New Bus Route

Yes, you read that correctly. In these dark times for public transport with everyone still being told to avoid unessential use (unless the sun's out, obviously) and fears for the future of vulnerable routes nationwide, I can exclusively (sorry but it's been a long time since I've had the chance to use that word) reveal that from September 1st Borderbus are introducing a new service 522, which will operate from Aldeburgh to Peasenhall. Except it mainly won't as the route is split into two overlapping sections - Aldeburgh to Saxmundham and Leiston to Peasenhall. 

Why Peasenhall, I hear you ask. Why indeed, and honestly I haven't got a clue! But since I live there and our last bus ran in March 2016 I'm not complaining one iota. I'm fairly certain, despite the good friendship I have with the Borderbus team, that this bus isn't being put on just for my benefit, although it certainly will benefit me. I know residents in the West side of Yoxford, for example have always commented that the Aldeburgh - Halesworth 521 doesn't serve nearly enough of the village, and after Yoxford the next turning point is Peasenhall. Even so, in 2016 we had an open your own door Transit minibus, one return journey to Saxmundham 4 days a week, and now there will be 5 journeys each way with a double decker! This obviously indicates a school journey involved, and indeed that is the case, as you can see in the timetable below.

I'm guessing here, but it looks like Borderbus have won a school contract serving Leiston Academy from Whincops of Peasenhall, which would explain the Peasenhall terminus. I really should have asked but I'm a little rusty after 3 and a half months so I'm sure Andrew Pursey will correct me if I'm wrong. Sir John Leman School in Beccles continues to attract pupils from all over the county, and the Leiston to SJL is either a new route or a contract won from another operator. Either way it's great to see the buses put to good use while the kids are at school - if it's ever safe for them to go back that is!

However, as locals will know, there is already an hourly service between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh provided by First Eastern Counties' 64 from Ipswich. I can't see any variations to the route on the 522, so is there the demand for another bus, especially between Leiston and Saxmundham where there really isn't much apart from fields. This is where the theoretical side of me has gone into overdrive.

Chris Speed of FEC has long told me the 64 loses money hand over fist between Wickham Market and Saxmundham - indeed a few years ago it went to two hourly before being restored to hourly through council subsidy. Will the introduction of the 522 give First the excuse they need to pull out of Aldeburgh and Saxmundham once and for all? Will Suffolk CC still subsidise the Wickham Market to Sax part of the journey at a reduced frequency or will that link be lost forever?

If First pull out of Aldeburgh then will Borderbus step in and restart the immensely popular Anglian 165 Aldeburgh to Ipswich via Snape service that was so savagely cut by Phil Eden when he replaced Andrew Pursey there. One of the reasons was logistics in case of breakdown - it's a long way from Beccles to Ipswich to deal with a breakdown, but Anglian managed it pre Go Ahead so who knows what the long term thinking is. It's going to be interesting to watch developments.

My job now is to make sure the people of Peasenhall actually use the bus so there is no excuse to get rid of it again. Easier said than done, but opportunities like this don't happen every day! My thanks to Andrew for surprising me with the news (that's an understatement) and giving me the green light to go public. I should also say that Borderbus have retained the tender for the 521 for another 5 years, which is good news for both them, and the communities served by that important link. A 5 year tender in the current climate is some achievement, I think.

There will be another post in a few days with an update on a bus I was lucky enough to drive in days of yore, that I featured a few years ago on here. In the meantime stay safe, and try to avoid the lemmings who think the virus has gone and it's back to normal!


  1. Fair bit of dead running to/from Saxmundham from SJL off the school run.

  2. Saw your tweet complaining about people make non-essential journeys, don't know why though, as there is nothing against non-essential travel by the government. Also not like anything is busy, so would you rather less people used it in short term leading to long term decline or we all go back to it as soon as possible?

    As I stated before I'm now out doing my hobby, I'm not scared of covid.

  3. Firstly the Government are still maintaining public transport is only used for essential journeys if you have no alternative and social distancing is not going to be changed, secondly people like you not giving a damn are the reason there's going to be a second wave of the virus (that is unless you're merely taking pics and not travelling), and thirdly it's frankly hilarious you're not scared of a deadly virus but too much of a coward to reveal your identity!

  4. Glad to see BorderBus putting on a public service around a school run. It always confuses me why SCC doesn't try to encourage this (or even require it in some school contracts) as seems the most efficient use of resources in the countryside. Anyway very good news after so many years of decline around here - one can only hope this is successful and the idea catches on. Good on you for advertising it to locals.

  5. I read with interest that Reading Buses has cancelled their order with Optare for Metrodeckers. Considering they were due for delivery a year ago I can't say I'm surprised in the slightest!

    Difficult times ahead for all manufacturers I guess...

  6. The return of buses to Peasenhall is a good news story as far as the Parish Council and local businesses are concerned, and we hope you'll come and join us for a small (socially-distanced) welcome for the new service when it launches on 1 September. Further details to follow...