May 22 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, February 2, 2013
A new shuttle bus service is to be introduced in Southwold to offset the impact of the ban on buses entering the town centre, it was confirmed this week.
Southwold Town Council has accepted a free minibus from Suffolk County Council and is now considering how the service should be run, along with possible routes.
A temporary ban on buses using parts of the High Street was made permanent by the county council in November.
The controversial scheme – which saw the main town centre bus stop in Market Place moved a short distance up the road to outside the King’s Head pub – was introduced to ease congestion.
Southwold mayor Michael Ladd said: “The bus stop is a few hundred yards on from where it was and people have to walk a lot further now, which could be a problem for those with shopping or those who are less mobile. That was one of the issues raised in the feedback and we have pursued the shuttle bus as a result of that.”
Town councillors have already visited Halesworth to see its shuttle bus service.
Mr Ladd said they were looking into using volunteer drivers.
The minibus will be stored at Southwold Fire Station and there is an option for the town council to sell the vehicle and keep the proceeds if the scheme proves unsuccessful.
It is hoped the new shuttle service will start at Easter. The proposed route would run to and from the King’s Head stop via the pier, the harbour, Ferry Road, Queen Street and Goodall Street. This incorporates the new healthy living centre at Reydon, with two journeys a day stopping at the Harbour Inn.
Meanwhile, the town council confirmed this week that it was planning to demolish the redundant Market Place bus shelter.
But the East Suffolk Travellers’ Association (ESTA) is calling for fresh consultation on the bus ban and says it should be overturned if sufficient people oppose it. The group has lodged a complaint with the county council over the way the consultation was carried out and says it will refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman if their concerns are not addressed.
ESTA’s chairman, Trevor Garrod, said the decision to remove the shelter was therefore premature. He said: “We cannot be certain of the fact that buses won’t return to the High Street at some point in the future.
“Secondly, the shelter is one of the few places in the town centre where people can take cover from the rain without going in to a shop. If the shuttle bus is going to stop in the Market Place, passengers will also need somewhere to wait.”
He said the shuttle bus would be a worthwhile experiment but added: “Are people going to get off a bus and get on another vehicle for another 300 yards? As soon as you build an extra change in to public transport people are going to think twice about using it.”
Defending the town council’s move, Mr Ladd said the county council had made the traffic restriction permanent and he did not think that would change.
He added: “The town council built the bus shelter in the first place and the feeling is there is no need for it now. It is a bit of an eyesore and not in a great state of repair.
“It has no historical value and it is an opportunity to open up that bit of pavement.”
The town council agreed to upgrade the bus shelter outside the King’s Head and install a second, larger shelter next to it during a meeting on Tuesday. The improvements will cost £4,130 and Suffolk County Council has agreed to pay 50pc of that with the town council funding the rest.
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