Parking review in Woodbridge: Update

It seems to have been going on forever, but the complicated and long-drawn-out process that is the new parking review for Woodbridge is finally coming to an end. A rough time frame is as follows:

End of Feb: Suffolk County council sends out all proposed changes to all consultees (Fire, Ambulance, HGV etc)

Mar / Apr:  legal orders for changes to restrictions are written out

Apr / May: Changes are formally  advertised on site / newspaper

May / June: Lining / signing changes to roads are made

June:  Resolve any objections at Rights of Way committee meeting. (However, even if objections are raised, my understanding is that  changes can be made to roads with no objections whilst leaving the road with objections outstanding.)

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Woodbridge street lights: Warren Hill area

 I’ve been following up reports from from Woodbridge residents of continuing street light failure in the Warren Hill area. 

According to the Suffolk County Council officer in charge of  street lighting, it’s not good news – there won’t necessarily be a quick fix because the faults are due to mains problems which are the responsibility of EDF energy – and EF energy are currently overwhelmed by problems caused by this winter’s heavy snow. 

” The faults require the attendance of EDF who are struggling to find overhead linesmen for these works,” he tells me. “We have a batch of G39 repairs still awaiting a firm date from them (we are chasing them for an answer). 

” One fault is a recurring one – it was repaired in the batch of G39 works just before Christmas but has gone out again. Sounds like a new unit is required which sets off a round of discussions with the District Council on costs. 

” Another problem is that not all the faults in the area had been reported and it has only been as a result of one of my engineers carrying out a night time inspection that they have now been entered onto the system. We are reliant upon the public promptly calling faults in, together with the column ref. number, in order to keep on top of them.” 

I’ll keep you informed.

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WOODBRIDGE RESIDENTS REALLY MISS THE BUS


Woodbridge residents are really missing the bus! On Friday they met to protest about the slow and deliberate death of Woodbridge bus services.

Bus users and would-be bus users and people representing bus-users met at Woodbridge’s ancient Seckford Almshouses to protest. The Almshouse residents have been left without any service at all since their regular bus was re-routed, to follow all other services on a single route round the edge of Woodbridge. Everyone signed a letter inviting key personnel from First Eastern Counties Bus Company and Suffolk County Council as well as the Traffic Commissioner to a meeting to discuss this and other issues.

We are asking them to meet us to work out how to improve local services. The situation is completely unacceptable,” says Woodbridge County Councillor, Caroline Page. “Do you realise that Woodbridge residents don’t have a bus service to the hospital in the evening, or on Sundays any more? So many of my constituents have complained about these yawning gaps in provision that I thought we needed to take some joint action to fix this problem. Its great that so many colleagues at Town and District Council level were prepared put aside their political differences to support residents.” Among those expressing concern were Woodbridge’s Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and eight District and Town councillors.

We are told that many local bus services are not ‘commercially viable’, yet it seems that commercial viability is not being considered when bus services are planned or provided.,” says Caroline – who uses local services regularly. “ Competition has brought no benefits, and county council subsidisation is being undertaken without regard for the services being provided. How can we aspire to be the Greenest County unless we sort this out?”

Almshouse residents now face a steep climb uphill to an unsheltered stop if they want to use the bus. This is particularly difficult for the frailer residents. Their only alternative is to take taxis, which is very expensive,” say Almshouse residents, Sue Ramsey and Gaye Bowers. “It’s simply not good enough!”

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Are Suffolk buses fit for purpose?

(This was published as a letter in the East Anglian Daily TImes 15 Feb 2010)

Passengers suffer, thanks to unreliable bus services

So it took a ‘covert investigation’ by the Department of Transport to reveal what Suffolk passengers have known all along – that First Eastern Counties bus services are frequently unreliable, with 1 in 5 buses leaving early or late – or not appearing at all (EADT 11/02/10 Bus Operator Told to Improve) We’re not surprised at that. What we do find surprising is that a commercial service should be proven to behave in such a cavalier fashion to its passengers. Its as if First Eastern don’t care whether it carries passengers or not. So much for the basis of ‘commercial viability.

In defence, their spokesman said that many First Eastern Counties routes and timetables ‘were improved’ after this report was compiled, on November 15. Now, I remember November 16 very well – it was the Monday morning I and several others waited for an hour at a Woodbridge bus stop for a First bus that had been ‘improved’ out of existence without warning the passengers. Or their County Councillor. (See http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=20) Of course, this is only one example of the generally poor information given out by the bus companies about their services. Can you think of a company that expects to sell their products without advertising? Again, the term ‘commercially viable’ seems far from appropriate!

I do hope the DfT inquiry finding will interest  the Conservative run County Council- which  is is keen to replace scheduled rural bus services with their pet ‘demand responsive transport’ – a door-to-door service that needs booking well in advance. Their rationale?

Many rural bus services are not commercially viable …. Alternative services are required to meet the needs of local people.”

But with bus services operating as described above, how can you possibly establish what services ARE commercially viable ? Back in 2005 the National Audit Office identified the most important factors that were needed to support successful country bus services. These were, not demand responsive transport, but positive action:

  • commitment to achieving growth in bus use;
  • investment in a package of measures to increase demand for bus services;
  • strategic planning, partnership working between local authorities and bus operators in a deregulated market and effective procurement of local bus services;
  • the provision and administration of concessionary fares; and
  • regulation and monitoring of bus services.

The people of Suffolk deserve a viable bus service that they can rely on. But until they are given a chance to use such a service it is impossible to define whether it might be commercially viable or not. What is currently on offer is not fit for purpose!

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Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge