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Warwick Avenue is resurfaced!

Waerwick Avenue resurfacing is finally taking place!

Those potholes in Warwick Avenue . They’ve been a thorn in  residents’ sides for years – and in MY side ever since I’ve been elected. Now, finally, resurfacing work is under way.

 

In fact, with any luck it will be finished today!

 

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Sizewell C – a route to sustainable transport in East Suffolk?

At Suffolk’s full council  this week I spoke on the motion regarding mitigation and compensation in the development of Sizewell C.

I’d like to make clear here that the decision as to whether to build or not to build Sizewell C is not at issue here. THAT is a decision being taken elsewhere. However, what is very clear to me is that if Britain’s city-dwellers want us in Suffolk coastal to host their nuclear-powered electricity generation, they need to be compensating us handsomely for this.

I haven’t noticed any great  desire to build a new power station in  London, after all.

Suffolk coastal is already an area suffering from a double whammy of traffic problems – traffic congestion on eg sections of  the A12 on the one hand, rural transport poverty on the other hand. Any development of Sizewell C must be seen as an opportunity to address this.

In addition to  finally getting round to building the Four Villages bypass (a crying need since I’ve been a county councillor – and probably since my grandmother was one) I suggest that development should include heavy investment in the east Suffolk line and better rail services along the Suffolk coast, together with huge investment in other forms of sustainable transport, such as regular reliable bus services. This would aid building work and allow both residents and visitors to enjoy the Suffolk coastal countryside while leaving a lasting and green legacy of the development  that would go a small way to compensate us for all we are being asked to hazard – in short-, mid- and long-term – when hosting such a project for the benefit of the nation.

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My Response to East Anglia Rail Passenger Franchise Consultation

I am replying to the East Anglia Rail Passenger Franchise Consultation as County Councillor for Woodbridge, and as LibDem Spokesperson for Transport – on behalf of my constituents and all the rail travellers of Suffolk.

In addition I am a very regular rail traveller, using Abellio Greater Anglia rail services several times a week: generally using the East Suffolk  line, the Ipswich to Cambridge line, the Ipswich to Peterborough line and the Ipswich to London line  – though I also make fairly regular journeys on other portions of the network. I am therefore qualified to talk about the current rail provision with significant personal knowledge of the day-to-day running of the services.

Firstly I would like to make special reference to questions 3, 4 and 5 which all link together:

“Question 3  Are there any changes to the current passenger rail service which you feel should be considered? “

Currently the trains specified to and from Ipswich are:  Hourly to Felixstowe . Hourly to Lowestoft . Hourly to Cambridge . Every two hours to Peterborough.

It is clear to all regular travellers that the Cambridge and Peterborough services need extending: Increasing the Ipswich- Cambridge service to  twice an hour; Ipswich -Peterborough  service – hourly would meet the needs of our developing community. An later extension to the Lowestoft service would be a huge benefit.

The current poor service to Peterborough means that Ipswich is already substantially cut off from rail connexions to the west and north unless one travels via London, putting unnecessary stress on passenger numbers on that line and a huge extra-time burden on Suffolk travellers. Cynically this might seem for no better reason than the privatised competitive operators seem  reluctant to extend services beyond the Intercity route with the biggest gains (Norwich to London). This then causes a London bottleneck and a lack of flexibility in travel which seriously needs addressing:

People in Suffolk need an hourly service to Peterborough as a bare minimum  – both for their own convenience and benefit  and, strategically, to take pressure off the London route.

Similarly the Ipswich- Cambridge service needs to be improved from the once-an-hour service which is all that  it currently merits – bearing in mind that the Ipswich-Cambridge line is not only the gateway from Suffolk to the west but to Stansted.

Although we are hugely grateful for an hourly service, people in Woodbridge  and further along the East Suffolk line could do with at least  one later train in the evening to allow them to enjoy a night out in London – or even Ipswich. The last London train to meet the last existing Lowestoft service leaves at 21.00. The last Lowestoft service leaves Ipswich at 10.17.

“Question 4:Results indicate that rail is not the preferred mode of transport when travelling to Stansted Airport. What improvements do you believe should be made to the rail service in order to make this your first choice of travel?”

See answer to Q 3. Try to get to Stansted from anywhere in Suffolk – especially east Suffolk and the answer is simple. Currently Abellio runs a slow hourly service that is far from reliable. The last train from Ipswich goes at 21.19 and takes just under an hour and a half if all goes well. Reliability being an issue (and I personally have been given as little as 30 seconds notice of this train stopping dead at Newmarket an turning around  rather than continuing to Cambridge, although it was clear the guard had known in advance!) means that no sensible person would rely on this service if they have a  plane to catch.

 A frequent, fast, reliable service to Cambridge from Ipswich, starting early and finishing late and costing a reasonable amount is what is required if you wish to support rail transport from Suffolk to Stansted. This is a simple strategic decision that has been beyond every planner since Stansted became a functioning civil  airport.

“Question 5  If you have a view on or would be affected by the proposal set below, please provide it: In order to improve connectivity between Cambridge and the north of England, Rail Executive is currently assessing the case for the diversion of the current Liverpool Lime Street to Norwich East Midlands Trains to Cambridge and a new hourly East Anglia operated service between Norwich and Peterborough providing good connections to the East Coast Mainline services to Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland. The assessment will equally include a sub-option where the current Ipswich to Peterborough service would be limited to Ely and connections would be provided with the new Norwich to Peterborough service. The option to retain the current Norwich through service to Liverpool Lime Street will be included within this assessment.”

My view is simple, and relates to my answer to Q3.

  Suffolk needs an direct  hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough. If you elect to link the service to anything that carries on further, that is up to you, however it MUST NOT be any less (eg to Ely). Anything else will be selling the residents in Suffolk short, and limiting our transport choices further than they are already limited.

The Peterborough – Ipswich service is already the poor relation of Abellio’s services. The last time I travelled on it, it compared very unfavourably to several rail trips I had recently made in rural China! As planning legislation requires more and more housing in the Suffolk countryside we Suffolk residents deserve rail services that are better, not worse –  and that will allow us to move around the region to employment and education choices that do not funnel us automatically through the already overly congested unreliable bottleneck that is Liverpool Street Station. By removing the direct Peterborough train you will be doing just that!

“Question 8a How can the franchise operator help you better during planned disruption, such as engineering works?”

Let us rephrase this question: “How (excuse my bluntness, but I am put beyond patience) can the franchise operator best get off its backside and consider providing the service that the farepaying public are paying for when they cynically ‘plan’ their disruption during weekends and public holidays?”

  The current franchise operator appears to  consider the needs of the distance city commuter first and foremost when it comes to ‘planned disruption’ I suggest that it is time that this should be queried as a priority. As Woodbridge county councillor I represent a huge tranche of travellers and business people who would like to travel – or to service the needs of travellers able to arrive by rail – at the weekends and on public holidays. The next rail franchise operator needs to consider that leisure and tourism is an important part of Suffolk business and understand that supporting the travel of a wider range of passengers should be a significant part of their operation.

Yet, because Abellio concentrates on the Norwich-London commuter traffic ,  the company  has shown itself totally cavalier to the requirements of internal Suffolk  travel and travellers and specifically weekend and holiday travellers. Why should it be so difficult for travellers to travel at the times most people want to travel? And for that matter why on earth should travellers be paying the same fare for this substandard and shoddy service? Most of all – if people can carry a bicycle on the train why can they not carry their bicycle on these replacement buses?  It is not beyond the wit of man to make adequate provision for the people the operator is so ready to discommode while they continue to charge them full fare for this poor apology for ‘service’ in a wholly ‘Jesting Pilate’ spirit!  Our expectations from the next franchise operator should be of a reasonable level – and I am expecting them to be able to commit to do a lot better! (Incidentally, I travel around the world on trains and have yet to find another country which grinds to a halt the way the UK does on Sundays and public holidays. Perhaps a new franchise operator would like to investigate that?)

“Question 9 …However, we are confined by limited timetabling and infrastructure constraints and are therefore looking for other innovative ways to resolve the issue of excess capacity. When travelling on a service where capacity is stretched, what opportunities do you see which would improve your on board experience?”

First and foremost I go back my answers to Q3 and 5 and to the simple notion of not allowing the franchise operator to neglect the minor routes and produce these bottlenecks in the first place - which is pretty much what you are proposing to do by eg removing the Ipswich to Peterborough service! It is not rocket science to see that you need to be reducing the pressure on these trains. So, simple solutions are:

Ensuring that as many competing rail services are across the area running efficiently and well and at as full capacity as possible by funding them appropriately and not allowing franchise operators and their shareholders to cherrypick the lucrative Intercity routes for short-term profits

Investing in double-decker carriages which are standard  in Europe and China (and don’t give me that spiel of amazingly long and impossible time-scales for commission and delivery that I have been given by UK rail operaters! They built an entire monorail across Chongqing: rail, stations, carriages and all in two years. In this global marketplace a rail company could source and build new carriages fast if it was in any way motivated to do so).

Biting the bullet and giving up the spacious first-class carriages and replacing them with the much more intensively occupied standard seating which is what the current franchise holder has provided for the rest of the passengers! My view of first class is that if there is no pressure on space, I have no issue with provision of first class seating – should people wish to pay for it. If however we have limited room and no chance of extra carriages, I’m afraid they stand in the way of efficiency and progress and are doomed to extinction

Question 15 mentions facilities:
There is a continuing diminution of cycle, buggy and luggage storage on current Greater Anglia trains, and the situation is getting worse.  On some Abellio trains (eg Cambridge – Ely and beyond) there is none at all within the carriages  although they are also without a guard’s van (and now resemble tube train carriages). This means there is nowhere at all to carry luggage. So what then is a traveller? Someone who only carries themselves? On these trains this lack of storage has a dreadful effect on the travel experience – cyclists and passengers with heavy luggage standing at the exits and getting in the way of people wanting to get on and off, and often with guards and passengers shouting at them. This is not appropriate reasonable or fair. Even on, say the Ipswich – Cambridge  or East Suffolk Line trains there is limited space for cycles and  it means that travelling is fraught with anxiety that one might be denied access. On several occasions in recent years I’ve been denied access onto a Greater Anglia train with a prebooked ticket because there was no space for my bicycle. More commonly, however, I’ve suffered great anxiety that I might be denied access, which has diminished my travelling experience. The East Suffolk Line is rural and there are no connecting buses so this is a particular handicap.

Babychanging facilities  are important and not very noticeable on trains (though, to be fair, I don’t carry babies any more and have had no complaints). It must always be included in carriages.

Staff presence is essential – particularly to protect the  vulnerable. It must not be reduced

Tables on trains are useful for those of us who work as we travel, while plug sockets are very useful – and so is free WiFi which every FirstBus in Suffolk provides for its passengers included in the price of their average £3.50 ticket – but which Abellio does not include in the eg £50.70 standard second-class single ticket it charges Ipswich to London

“Question 16 What areas of customer service within your end-to-end journey would you expect to see monitored and reported on in the new franchise, in order to improve the service quality for passengers?”

  Price of tickets

  Punctuality and reliability

  Provision of sufficient capacity in terms of a) train frequency b) availability of seating on board the train and c) provision of services to required destinations;

  Adequacy of cycle, buggy and luggage storage;

  management of disruption: information provision and outcome;

  ease of buying the most appropriate ticket for the journey at ticket office, online, AND via ticket machine;

  The ease of access for disabled passengers and those with young children

In Summary – which is what question 18 asks from me – I ask for my constituents from the new franchise, as top three priorities:

1 More and better evening/weekend /holiday rail services without disruptions, so that we business people, residents and travellers in Suffolk can benefit as well as the Intercity commuters from the franchise.

2 More services to Peterborough/Cambridge (1 an hour to Peterborough; 2 an hour to Cambridge, a further  evening service along the East Suffolk Line). NO REDUCTION OF EXISTING SERVICES

3 Better design of carriages to allow for more passengers to travel with bicycles and luggage and buggies (in other words – to travel) – and the fast commissioning and provision of these carriages.

Finally, I must point out – once again – that I take great issue with the first question in this Franchise consultation.  I have already responded personally, and face-to-face, as a county councillor in a public consultation, to this  – but I cannot emphasise how improper and dismissive it is to ask the poor passengers who travel on the current Greater Anglia trains your Question 1 (which asks them to prioritise only three of the following  list which they consider require  particular attention in order to improve an end to end journey:

Delivering value for money; Providing a punctual and reliable service;Provision of sufficient capacity, both in terms of train frequency and the availability of seating on board the train;Effective management of disruption, especially through information to passengers;The availability of accurate information about trains and platforms;The comfort and adequacy of accommodation on the train, especially on longer distance journeys;The availability of train and station staff;The ease of buying the most appropriate ticket for the journey at a ticket office, online, or via a ticket machine;The ease of access to services for passengers with reduced mobility; and Free wi-fi available on trains)

I wish to put it on record for a third time that this question is deeply inappropriate considering the current levels of service provision. Are we expected to make a choice?  Yet as any person filling in an electronic version will be unable to continue UNLESS they tick three boxes and three only, it will completely distort the problems that exist with the current provision given that:

*The train tickets are expensive (£50.70 each way standard fare Ipswich to London) * the trains are often not punctual or reliable, * they are often not of a suitable capacity (at least for second class passengers) * management of disruption is perfunctory and kneejerk with conflicting advice being given and the poor staff on the ground left without support to deal with enraged passengers*The availability of accurate information about trains and platforms is such that I am often reminded of the comic film M Hulot’s Holiday; *space – particularly for people with luggage or bicycles and most particularly at peak or holiday times is unreliable – the stock being variable; trying to travel with a bicycle  on the ‘tube-style- carriages north of Cambridge is a particular challenge * one cannot buy the popular Day Ranger ticket either online or from a ticket machine because -although I have repeatedly asked  Abellio  to do so – they  do not provide it  online or via a ticket machine machine, presumably because it is rather too good value (!) * reduced mobility covers a multitude of problems some of which  are dealt with better than others* Finally, as I travel around Suffolk on First Eastern Counties buses who all provide free wifi in the price of their ticket – I am at a loss to understand why Abellio should decide it is a First Class perk!

Given, as I say, all these factors , I would absolutely refuse to prioritise three of these recommendations ‘that would  make my journey better’. Why on earth should anyone imagine that passengers should not need them ALL to make our journeys better, if all are lacking? 

Yours sincerely

Caroline Page

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Suffolk v Swindon Stanza Bonanza

Stanza Bonanza - Suffolk v Swindon

Stanza Bonanza – Suffolk v Swindon

On 26th February I joined with five colleagues from the Suffolk Poetry Society in a ‘Stanza Bonanza’ –  when two teams of poets from different areas join with each other in a sort of friendly contest.

It was held at the Poetry Society’s Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. We were matched against some excellent poets from Swindon, Wiltshire.

The doughty poets of Suffolk and Swindon: Elizabeth Bracken, Hilda Sheehan, Florence Cox, Cristina Newton, Kate Foley, Louise Crossley, Caroline Gill, George Morehead, Caroline (Cro) Page, Sam Loveless, Beth Soule, Maurice Spillane

The doughty poets of Suffolk and Swindon: Elizabeth Bracken, Hilda Sheehan, Florence Cox, Cristina Newton, Kate Foley, Louise Crossley, Caroline Gill, George Morehead, Caroline (Cro) Page, Sam Loveless, Beth Soule, Maurice Spillane

I read one poem inspired by a fungus  foraging afternoon organised by Suffolk Wildlife Trust at Knettishall Heath, last year, and also – because  I had spent the afternoon at the House of Commons’ first EVER debate on Epilepsy –  a poem I’d written on Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, “Lament for a Late Ghost“.

Why not be topical.

I may also be reading  this at Woodbridge Library  for their next poetry evening, 26 March as will be Purple Day 2015 – Epilepsy Day!

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It’s the year of the Goat – Guo nian hao!

IMG_20150222_160215550 (1) (631x800)过年好!拜年了!

As many people know, I have been learning Chinese for ten years now. It is a very interesting language to learn, and in a county like Suffolk -hosting the port of Felixstowe and Huawei at BT -ever more essential!

This year  I was invited by the ACCE, the Anglo Chinese Cultural Exchange to open the Chinese New Year  Variety show by singing  the Teresa Teng classic “Yueliang daibiao wode xin” onstage at the Ipswich Corn Exchange.  Your county councillor is multi-talented!

I was joined by three fellow students who have all been learning 普通话 – that’s putonghua or standard Chinese for years, from local teacher Di Suling. When we tell people that we learn Mandarin, we are all used to people saying things like “Of course, you must be ‘good’ at languages..” and “It must be very difficult..

No.

My view is that if everyone else in the world can learn to speak other languages, why shouldn’t we in Britain finally start joining in? And actually Chinese is no more difficult than any other language – it just look like it ought to be.

Suffolk schools, now is the time to start having Chinese on the GCSE syllabus! We will all need it in years to come..

.

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Epilepsy debate: House of Commons 26 Feb 2015 – 2pm

Caroline Page

Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge. Suffolk 

 

Epilepsy is and has been overlooked for years. So now that Laura Sandys – one of two MPs ever  to  admit to their epilepsy –  has managed to secure a debate in the House of Commons,  will it be to the bog-standard empty chamber?  Will your MP be there? Write and ask them!
I sure as hell hope my MP, Therese Coffey, will be. And so, of course,  I wrote to ask her. As follows:

Dear Therese,

You will not be surprised to find me writing to you to urge you to attend the forthcoming  parliamentary debate on Epilepsy (26th February 2015; House of Commons; at 2pm)! The debate has been secured by your colleague Laura Sandys, one of two MPs, both in this parliament, ever to admit that they have epilepsy – even though epilepsy affects 1% of the UK population.

This resonates with me. There are thousands of county councillors across the country: however, I appear to be the only county councillor who is up-front about having epilepsy and thus prepared to support my constituents (and yours) with the fallout from this condition. Epilepsy has a profound impact on matters as varied as transport choice, education outcomes, career prospects, medication,  life expectancy etc etc. Our failure to recognise epilepsy or these impacts has knock-on effects that can cause ripples throughout society.

One of these constituents  is my daughter, failed over and over again by a country that is unprepared to allow her the chance to contribute and yet is deeply reluctant to support her by even educating or medicating her appropriately.  This is a ridiculous waste of public money and human potential.

I have a number of issues to raise concerning the treatment and expectations of people with epilepsy in the UK in general and Suffolk in particular – with specific reference to our situation in Suffolk Coastal. However it would seem inappropriate to waste your time and mine unless I know whether you are going to be attending this debate. If you are (as I hope you are) I would  be very happy to give you a briefing without prejudice or party-political bias on this very important issue

Best wishes

Caroline

 

Update 26-02-15:

Well, who gave a damn? I attended the epilepsy debate in the Commons on Thursday, taking time off from a very busy working life (working remotely on the train), bearing the cost of travelling to London, sitting in the Visitors Gallery -all to watch 16 MPs talking about Epilepsy.

Can I repeat that, SIXTEEN MPs, out of the 650 elected (17 if you include the Deputy Speaker, the Speaker himself being otherwise engaged!) and paid for by us to represent us. But alas – the others must have been  too busy and important to speak. We visitors wholly outnumbered those MPs in the chamber –  the 5 Tory MPs out of 302 (1 in 60); 7 Labour MPs out of 256 (1 in 36.5) and 4 LibDem MPs out of 56 (1 in 14). There were no MPs from Suffolk at all! My MP Therese Coffey who cannot speak (because she is a Whip) did not take me up on the offer of a briefing neither did she brief anyone else to speak on behalf of her voiceless constituents. I have epilepsy, so does my daughter, and we can tell from personal experience over many years that the problems for people with epilepsy – regarding transport alone – are immense in a rural area such as Suffolk Coastal.

If we are going to adhere to the old-fashioned Parliamentary system, having an MP who is a Whip would seem a very good reason not to re-elect her next time round – why should we in Suffolk Coastal be deprived of representationin such a debate  just because the parliamentary Conservative party needs party officers?

The larger picture is that clearly the majority of MPs don’t see support of epilepsy as any kind of vote winner – although 1% of people will suffer from a seizure sometime in their life and this will affect a lot of people beyond themselves.

Listening to the debate (and why on earth debate ‘Epilepsy’ rather than a sensible question regarding Epilepsy, anyway? Its like debating ‘Act of God’ or nailing jelly to the ceiling!) it seemed as if many of those speaking were hearing about the effects and problems of epilepsy for the first time. Others were using the debate to raise such individual examples as to be of very little use to the wider picture considering this was the first time this subject had ever been debated. It was more as it they were name-checking their constituents!

As one person concluded afterwards in an internet group I belong to: “Major issues ignored in the epilepsy debate, carers, (child and adult); modern indentured labour; Schooling; Multidisciplinary System neglect; Abuse and discrimination.. So many other things..”    She is quite right!

And these speakers are the people we have been relying on to represent us. I was deeply depressed. You can read the debate here .

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Save not spend: Suffolk’s Tories vote in 2015-6 budget by narrow majority

Today Suffolk County Council  was  discussing the County Council Budget 2015-16 – always an occasion of much grandstanding and  some polite(ish) mudslinging.

I am always flummoxed at how Suffolk Conservatives accuse  opposition parties wanting to spend money of ‘lacking ambition,‘  Yet clearly the height of Conservative ambition (as articulated in these selfsame meetings) is to put their money under the mattress  and hope for the best.  Astonishing.

Apart from anything else, as my colleague, Lib Dem Deputy Leader  John Field reminded them,  “You save for a rainy day – not for a rainy decade!”

Then of course there is the exhibition that Cllr Colin Noble makes every year, bellowing “11.9%!” and “18%!“. He never once forgets to accuse Labour of having once raised something by such amounts. He never once  mentions whether it was value for money. Oddly enough, although he grandstands frequently  about ‘big black holes‘  into which money has fallen, Cllr Noble never ever once remembers to mention the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds of hardworking Suffolk taxpayers’ money he  wasted on Suffolk Circle via a decision made in camera. Strange but true.

So I reminded him – and now I’m reminding you too. (You can brush up on all the details if you read my blog post The Short Life of Suffolk Circle and what it Cost Us Suffolk Taxpayers).

Some of those hundreds of thousands of wasted pounds would have come in very handy this year, Cllt Noble.  Conservative budget proposals included savings (a polite word for cuts) of £38.2 m, leading to a budget requirement of £454,981,413. Reserves are forecast as reaching £165million by the end of March. A long Labour amendment detailed reinstatement of £12m of the cuts. The Liberal Democrats did not agree with all of these reinstatements – but we agreed with £8.5million of them and so we supported the Labour amendment.

I spoke passionately  with special reference to supporting educational transport for  disadvantaged  post-16 year olds. We don’t need to take money out. Affordable transport to education is crucial. A recent Commons report tells us that 30% of young people NEET (not in education employment or training) would have been in post-16 education if they had money to cover the transport;40% of young people in the kind of work with no training element ditto. And of course the economic impact to these young people extends far beyond the economic year.

I reminded the Cabinet Spokesman for Transport, Cllr Newman,  how hard I had fought for the a restoration of the Youth travel card, and how, though successful, the new Endeavour card was just a “pale and washy simulacrum” of the Explore card it replaced: operator take-up isn’t universal, it doesn’t cover train transport and the actual discount is much less.

I said I knew Cllr Newman would tell me that bursaries would cover the deficit.  But the same Commons report tells us how inequitably these bursaries are disbursed, especially in rural areas.

“Unless we provide young people from disadvantaged families with the proper support to travel to study or training, we are not supporting them, we are not widening participation, we are not extending them the helping hand they need to alter long-term outcomes. And more, we are creating a postcode lottery in which the rural young people are particularly disadvantaged,” I said. “I urge my colleagues opposite to think again. You are putting your money into reserves? Invest instead in these young people, and save the spend in budgets of the future.”

The debate continued until nearly 6pm, but the Labour amendment was lost 38-30, and the Tories managed to vote their original budget in, 37-31.

Close – but no cigar.

 

 

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What’s happening locally – February 2015

Suffolk County Council budget 2015-16.  Suffolk County Council will be debating the county’s 2015-16 budget at  this Thursday’s  full council. The administration is proposing  to cut £38 million in the next financial year – bringing its overall revenue budget down to less than £500 million for the first time in many years. It says that the cuts will be made by changing the way the council delivers  services and that front-line services to members of the public should not be seriously impacted. Opposition parties suggest that it is definitely  time to start dipping into the council reserves – likely to be over £150million by the end of next month.

Martlesham and Woodbridge Neighbourhood plans  It has been brought to my attention a small part of Martlesham Parish is under consideration in both the Martlesham and Woodbridge Neighbourhood plan area designation applications. It can of course can ultimately be included in only in one neighbourhood plan.  As  my County Council division covers the area  in question, I am very happy to offer myself as ‘honest broker’  should one be required.

The topping  out ceremony of  the combined Woodbridge  Fire and Police Station took place last Thursday. Work is proceeding fast, and the police are expected to move in in May.

Great East Swim training programme offer.  SCC is offering 48 places for people  aged between 14 and 25 and 48 places for those over the age of 50, who don’t regularly partake in physical activity, thanks to funding and support from Sport England. This includes

  • Three months fully supported training with professional swimming coaches
  • Three months free membership to one of the participating leisure centres
  • Physiotherapy support from Allied Health Professionals Suffolk
  • Free entry to the Great East Swim 2015
  • Free wetsuit hire.

Valued at over £200 per participant the opportunities are being made available at a small one-off charge of £25 per person.

The Sportivate programme for those aged 14-25 will be held at Crown Pools in Ipswich or Leiston Leisure with 25 places at each location; the programme for those aged 50+ will be held at Crown Pools Ipswich and Felixstowe Leisure Centre with 24 places in each location.

Woodbridge Buses I had a small  personal success in getting the timetables at the Turban centre relocated and reprinted after a photograph  I took of them, showing that you had to be seven foot tall to read them went viral on Twitter. Desperate measures indeed, but they were replaced in 24 hours, having been a problem for months!

 

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New Timetable at the Turban – in more ways than one!

Before and After - the timetable is highlighted in yellow. As you can i, until the adjustment was made (right) you had to be 7ft tall to read the timetable!

Before and After – the actual timetable is highlighted in yellow. As you can see, until the adjustment was made (right) you had to be 7ft tall to read the timetable!

 

After I tweeted them the photograph on the left on Wednesday last,  Suffolk Onboard finally understood the enormity of our problem with being able to read the bus timetables at the Turban Centre bus stop.

Basically, unless you had binoculars or stood head and shoulders above the rest of us, you didn’t stand a chance..

By Friday, they had sent workmen around, the frame  had been lowered and the timetable redesigned in a larger typeface, with the ads placed at the top. As you can see, it is now very much easier to read.

The moral is, if you point out clearly what is wrong, it does  assist people in putting it right!

This seems  a  good time to put online a  copy of the new 65b Sunday Timetable I’ve made up for you (as there isn’t an individual one on hand). It’s valid until the end of March. FIVE services EVERY SUNDAY  from Ipswich to Melton and back again – great for visiting, shopping, hospital visiting. – and again it will be a case of use it or lose it.  Double click, and  you can just print the image  and take it with you.

So,  think of using the bus, and do tell  friends in Ipswich  as well as those in Melton, Woodbridge and Kesgrave. This bus is a lifeline for those with no transport!

Melton - WOODBRIDGE- Ipswich 65b Sunday bus timetable Jan - March 2015

Melton – WOODBRIDGE- Ipswich 65b Sunday bus timetable Jan – March 2015

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January report: bus and rail

The main things you may find of interest concern local transport: the Sunday bus has been extended, the consultation document for the next rail franchise is out for consultation, and they are looking at closing some of Suffolk’s rail crossings

Restored Sunday bus starts this weekend, 14 January

We have heard that the 65b will not only be retained at least until March but will also now run 5 times a day in each direction from this weekend, with  the service extended out to Melton. The timetable has now  come out : the first bus from Ipswich arrives at the Turban Centre at 9.33, with the first bus into Ipswich departing at 9.46. The last Sunday bus back from Ipswich  leaves at 16.45.

Rail consultation: and particularly  Ipswich to Peterborough Passenger Service

The East Anglia Rail Franchise Consultation Document is currently open for consultation on the rail options that will be included within the franchise Invitation to Tender https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/east-anglia-rail-passenger-franchise

Worryingly  one  proposal  is to limit the current Ipswich to Peterborough passenger train service to Ely, with a potential change at Ely station for onward journeys to Peterborough, meaning Suffolk could potentially be left with a two-hourly direct train to Ely as its gateway to the North and West.. This is an even worse service than the very poor service that is currently on offer.

The Ipswich – Peterborough  service provides Suffolk with a vital link to Stansted airport (via Ely),  the Midlands, North East, North West and Scotland. Without it, journeys would  have to be routed via London.  It is critical that – instead of a reduction – this service is made an hourly one.

I do hope that WoodbridgeTown Council will respond to the consultation on behalf of the town. I will, of course, be replying as the County Councillor.

Closing rail crossings

Network Rail’s Anglia route asset management team is reviewing the safety of all level crossings, working with the county council and other organisations on a crossing by crossing basis. This will include those in Woodbridge.

SCC’s Cabinet member tells me “No list for level crossing closures has been drawn up by the county council and no definitive list of level crossing closures has been shared by Network Rail (although a separate piece of work has been undertaken by the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce to look at the whole of the mainline between Norwich and London to identify what interventions would be needed to increase train speeds). The closure of level crossings could not happen without extensive consultation with local residents and other stakeholders, and strong evidence to suggest that the crossing should be closed. SCC wants to see safer level crossings and faster travel times on the county’s railways. We will work with Network Rail to ensure the right balance is struck between safety, travel times and accessibility when proposals are put forward to close individual level crossings.”

County Councillor Surgeries

My first surgery takes place on 17 January. The next few dates are: 21 February, 21 March and 18 April. Surgeries continue to take place in the Woodbridge Library  10-12noon. No booking is necessary.

 

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