New telecoms cabinets installed on the corner of Sandy Lane and Ipswich Road have been causing anxiety to Woodbridge residents and Suffolk Highways officers alike since they were unexpectedly installed over the summer.
Drivers report that visibility to the right coming out of Sandy Lane has been severely affected. The eastern cabinet is also far too close to the road edge and to passing traffic, could cause cyclists to be squeezed between cabinet and vehicle – and indeed may get hit by something if left as it is.
For the last month it has been impossible to get any response from EE and TMobile (who Highways inform me are the principal companies concerned) so yesterday I took to Twitter to give the matter the oxygen of publicity and today I spoke about the cabinets on Radio Suffolk’s Breakfast Programme.
Interestingly, this seems to be was what was needed to get things going. EE are now in communication – and tell me they are ‘investigating the matter with the company who installed the cabinets.’
I am hoping the matter can now be satisfactorily resolved. Woodbridge residents shouldn’t be expected to have to choose between road safety and a 4G signal
Since Conservative-run Suffolk County Council divested its Highways maintenance services to the efficiencies of the private sector , its not only the roads that are in bad repair. Cycle paths abutting the A12 are in a disgraceful state of disrepair, and many can no longer be used for cycling. This forces vulnerable cyclists back on the A12 amidst the fast traffic and HGVs – a situation the cycle-paths were specifically created to remedy.
Last week I discovered for myself that the A12 cycle path between Woodbridge and the Ufford turnoff is not only overgrown, but in places it has actually disappeared.
Travel was a choice between walking our bikes on the ‘cycle path’ or cycling on the A12. We chose the former as safer – but the damage to my own bicyle’s inner tube and front tyre was irreparable because of the thorns and brambles across the path.
Unfortunately we will have no option but to cycle this route tomorrow. Does my disabled companion – who has catastrophic epilepsy – take her chance on the A12, or add an extra half-hour to an hour to her thirty-minute journey battling through the jungle where a cycle path used to be?
It is not a choice Suffolk Highways should be offering her, me, or any other cyclist, in this, the self-described ‘Greenest County.’
I have written to the Cabinet member for Highways and the Deputy Director of Highways Operations asking for their assurance that they should abandon this policy of wilful neglect and restore these paths to a usable condition immediately.
After deciding – once again – to cut a public transport subsidy, SCC’s Conservative administration have decided to honour their commitment to Park and Ride services by trying to make the Ipswich Park & Ride self-supporting!
The dream is to get the bus companies that operate alongside it to take over P&R services: Ipswich buses at the London Road end and First at the Martlesham end. (Many of us have used this system for years. It is called “catching a bus”).
The buildings in the carparks will no longer be ticket offices but will be offered to retail companies.
At the London Road End this plan seems comparatively simple: the 13 bus runs along the same route and Park & Ride tickets can already be used on it out of hours. There are, however, problems for users to the east. I was told, as LibDem Transport Spokesperson, that the 64 & 65 are the services which will become Park and Ride buses at Martlesham. However the Labour spokesperson has been told it would definitely be the 66. Asking the Cabinet Member for disambiguation, he had no idea whatsoever. We now hear it hasn’t been decided. The choice is important: neither service is ideal: the 66 service is slow and goes round a lot of houses. The 64/65 start out as far as Aldeburgh and Leiston and can often get deleayed.
In all, I am not sure how successfully this scheme will work, or whether it is a fudge to extend the operation beyond the forthcoming elections cobbled together by an administration which does not personally use buses.
Suffolk residents need the park& ride to help deal with the increasing congestion in Ipswich. The administration requires it to be income generating. Of course, there is no reason why it should not be both if properly run. This administration has never shown much sign of wishing to run it properly.
The best way to make the P&R more income-generating would be to make it more responsive to demand and that would be to provide a speedy service for commuters to reduce the morning rush hour. This our local buses do not do.
At the moment I cannot see any very compelling reason why people should now drive to the P&R from Woodbridge rather than getting on the same bus in Woodbridge – especially as they will be able to use their bus passes in Woodbridge but will pay to sit on the same bus if they board it at the Park & Ride!
We will wait and see as more details emerge.
Though these last few weeks have been dominated by the national Referendum and the Norfolk and Suffolk Devolution debates, other things have – of course – been happening on the domestic front. The big issues in SCC have been a new plan for maintaining Suffolk’s Highways and the future of the Ipswich Park and Ride, not to mention the political stability of the Conservative administration, while locally,there has been continuing work to secure the future of the Woodbridge Youth Centre
A new Highway Maintenance Operational Plan SCC’s Cabinet has just approved Suffolk’s new Highway Maintenance Operational Plan.
Basically they had little option because the past Highways Maintenance plans have been a disaster, criticised by everyone, regardless of party affiliation. (And anyway, this Plan has been running (‘trialled’) without Cabinet consent since early May.)
The good news is that it concedes that the previous way of Highways Maintenance working was unwieldy and inefficient, as county, town and district councillors across Suffolk can testify. There will now be a much more unified and strategic way of working between SCC and contractors Kier to try and make things work more efficiently than they have (with clear matrices for action for all eventualities). This may mean that the Highways small schemes backlog may clear at long, long last.
The bad news is that the mantra of ‘you’ve got to pay the market price for the work you get’ is very much to the fore, so there is no suggestion of many highways schemes being affordable any more. (An example was given of how a simple Highways marking job where the paint cost £49 would be charged out at £1989.) Unfortunately this seems to be the inevitable result of a market driven solution. Small towns like Woodbridge will no longer be able to rely on their County Councillors’ Highways budgets. Currently these are half what they were at best (mine is £6660 this year). Yet jobs will be many times more expensive.
At the Cabinet meeting I asked whether this was not a case of the ‘tail wagging the dog’? That this newly designed Highways Maintenance Operational Plan (the second one in a year!) had been constructed to fit the contractor because the contractor had been unable to stick to the agreed plan?(This was loudly rejected – but with little evidence).
In particular I pointed out the anomaly of a private organisation uttering the ‘you’ve got to pay the market price for the work you get’ mantra whilst
having no competition to ensure that they are offering good value for money
charging for the time worked by SCC officers on projects (when these officers have already been paid by SCC) when billing councillors for these projects and
failing to recognise the principle of counter-charge that ought to apply when the contractor wastes the time of County Councillors – who they rely on heavily for advocacy and intermediary work.
Surely these charges must be reciprocal? I suggested. Surely a free market model will not be wholly accurate unless the councillors too have a market rate set against the work they do? For equity, a charge for councillors’ work ought to be introduced which could then be levied against excessive charges and the incompetence of the contractor. Why should local highways budgets suffer from inflated charges without any redress?
Naturally this is far too sensible and logical a suggestion to be accepted by the SCC administration, but I am recording it to ensure you are aware that the suggestion was made by me, in defence of local councillors’ highways budgets.
For the rest, we will have to wait to see how this will pan out.
SCC’s Conservative majority on a knife-edge After a Conservative Carlford win Suffolk County Council continues to be led by a technical minority administration, with the following political make-up:
Conservative 37 – Labour 15; LibDem 7; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent 4 (eg a technical opposition of 38)
However, one of the Independents remains the notorious Hadleigh councillor, ex-Conservative Brian Reilly, who will insist on holding onto his council seat although disgracefully he has lived in North Carolina for a long time now. In Cllr Riley’s absence this makes the vote 37:37. On the rare occasions he graces the chamber with his presence, he votes with the Conservatives (this presumably being why they have been so reluctant to take constructive steps to get him removed).
Future of the Ipswich Park & Ride SCC’s administration’s plans to make the Park & Ride service self-supporting by getting the bus companies that operate alongside it to take over its services were looked at by the Suffolk CC’s Scrutiny committee who were not satisfied with what they saw and voted to send the plans back to Cabinet. These were reassessed and once again passed.
In a slightly rewritten proposal the ultimate future of the P&R will not hang immediately on the success of this scheme. If it fails, the plan will have to go back to Cabinet for reassessment before any thought of closure. However, Woodbridge and Martlesham residents will be concerned to discover there is as yet no clarity as to which First buses will be operating at the Martlesham end. This obviously makes a difference – both to the P&R service AND to the service it operates within.
(I had been told by officers very clearly that it would NOT be the Martlesham-terminating 66, but our less circuitous 63, 64, 65 will become Park and Ride buses. The Labour spokesperson has been equally clearly informed it will be the 66. I asked Cabinet Member James Finch for disambiguation at the previous Cabinet meeting. Unfortunately he had no idea whatsoever.)
I have been promised that once the scheme has been passed we will get confirmation as to which of these two options will be in operation.
I remain unsure how successfully this service will work. It seemed to me that the best way to make the P&R more income-generating would be to make it more responsive to unmet demand – and that would be to provide a good service for London commuters. This our local buses does not do.
Indeed at the moment I cannot see any very compelling reason why people should now drive to the P&R from Woodbridge rather than getting on the same bus in Woodbridge – especially as they will be able to use their bus passes in Woodbridge but will pay to sit on the same bus if they board it at the Park & Ride! We will wait and see as more details emerge.
So, people of Suffolk,will you be able to afford your new Community transport as re-engineered by your caring sharing Suffolk County Council? Will it accept your bus pass even? I really wouldn’t count on it.
UPDATE:I am very happy and relieved to report Suffolk Coastal Community Transport -operated by previous operators CATS and FACTS(ibn Felixstowe)- will be operating the same services as before: a mix of Demand Responsive Transport (on which bus passes will be accepted), and door-to-door and community car services on which passes won’t be accepted (exactly as before.) They are available for booking by anyone – old, young, disabled, ablebodied, carowner or carless to and from areas without a bus service or with very sparse services. They will operate Monday to Saturday 7-7, and can be block-booked (better than before) up to two weeks in advance.
The phone number is 01728 635938
Please use it folks. Or lose it.
However in mid-Suffolk, the franchisees BSEVC have already announced that they will be operating no Demand Responsive Transport in their Community Transport offer – eg Bus Passes will NO LONGER be accepted, all fares will rise, under-16 fares will only apply if are accompanied by an adult, and the under 18 reduction is derisory. And, surprise, surprise, there seems to beno provision for young people to use SCC’s much vaunted youth card the Endeavour(that pallid simulacrum of the much more successful Explore card the young people of Woodbridge fought so hard with me to keep)
As Creeting resident Mark Valladares said bitterly on Twitter,
“My Conservative County Councillor claimed we would have a “better service at lower cost”. Now we know what he meant”
Mr Valladares also pointed out that BSEVC has scrapped the discounted return fare – his return fare is now up by 54%.
We wait for information
The Dining Room, Hadleigh Town Hall, Market Place, Hadleigh, IP7 5DN
Friday 27th May
10.30 & 11.30
Forest Heath District Council, Council Chamber, College Heath Road, Milden hall, IP28 7EY
Friday 3rd June
Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Ipswich Town Hall (Change)
Friday 10th June
Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Mid Suffolk District Council, The Dove Room, 131 High Street, Needham Market, IP6 8DL
Wednesday 8th June
Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
St Edmunds bury
St Edmunds bury District Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3SP
Wednesday 1st June
Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Suffolk Coastal District Council, Council Chamber, Melton Hill, Melton, IP12 1AU
Monday 6th June
Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Waveney District Council, Riverside, 4 Canning Road, Lowestoft, NR33 OEG