Tag Archives: sustainable transport

Whats been happening in Suffolk: June 2013

Changes at Suffolk County Council    The recent election has brought significant changes to the dynamics of the County Council. The current political makeup is: Conservative 39; Green 2; Independent 3; Labour 15; Liberal Democrat 7; UKIP 9. This means  the Conservative group have an overall majority of three on the county council as opposed to their past overwhelming majority.

Additionally there have been changes to the Cabinet – the most significant being the appointment of Graham Newman as member responsible for Transport  and Lisa Chambers as responsible for Education.

I have kept my place on the Education Transport Appeals committee, and am substitute on the Rights of Way Committee. I continue as LibDem spokesman for Transport and Highways.

Hackney to help improve Suffolk’s Education Standards   Suffolk will be working with the London borough of Hackney to  improve educational attainment in the county following a 10-month independent inquiry into school performance in Suffolk. Although in Woodbridge, the schools are doing well (last month Farlingaye was rated outstanding in all areas by Ofsted), Suffolk is rated 148th out of 151 councils at primary level, 141st out of 151 at secondary level. THis is a rapid drop. EIght years ago, Suffolk schools were rated as being in the top thirties.

suffolk gcsesHackney has turned its schools around. Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of children achieving Key Stage 2 (level 4 or above) in English rose from 69% to 86% – matching the national average for the first time in seven years. In the same period, the percentage of children achieving the equivalent level in maths rose from 64% to 86%, beating the national average by 1%. The rise in GCSE performance was equally significant with the percentage of children gaining A*-C grades (including English and maths) increasing from 34.2% (10.5% below the national average) to 60.2% (0.8% above).

The new Hackney-Suffolk partnership will include a cultural, professional and educational exchange programme which is intended to enrich pupils’ learning, broaden teachers’ professional expertise and strengthen leadership at all levels. A new exchange programme for teachers tipped to one day become heads will also be set up.

More bus losses  More bad news for the bus users of Suffolk – especially those who cannot, cannot afford to, or are prevented by health and/or age considerations from driving a car.  Confirmation that the very popular Anglian bus 164 and 165 routes are to finish on June 28 arrived almost simultaneously with the news that First were practically withdrawing the Framlingham-Ipswich Service 63 at the end of May.  Suffolk County Council are now providing a replacement Framlingham-Wickham Market-Woodbridge Service –62 – which commenced in the last week of May. This provides 4 buses a day in each direction, Monday to Friday only. No weekends, no bank holidays. People wanting to visit Fram for purposes of tourism will have to go by car.

Users of the 164 and 165 have mounted a petition against the cut of this popular and useful service which provides the only bus service direct to Ipswich rail station.

First are now reacting to the withdrawal of Anglian Bus by making some further intended changes (effective 1st July 2013). First will be providing some buses diverting through Linden Road in Aldeburgh (Service 65). Some buses will also divert through Fentons Way in Kesgrave (Service 64). Additionally there will now be a later bus (1747 from Aldeburgh-Leiston-Saxmundham-Ipswich). SCC  supports a late bus from Ipswich (1905)  to Woodbridge and Melton which they are now are now going to extend to Rendlesham . This bus returns to Ipswich providing a later evening journey (New Number 65B).

However these additions are no match for the service that was lost.  I have received a lot of emails nd calls from people along the route, all of whom are devastated at these changes.

Surgery dates for 2013    As you know,  I hold a regular monthly surgery on the THIRD SATURDAY of every month. This is held at Woodbridge Library, 10am – 12 noon. Dates for the rest of 2013 are:

  • 15 June 2013
  • 20 July 2013
    Please note: there will be no surgery in August 2013
  • 21 September 2013
  • 19 October 2013
  • 16 November 2013
  • 21 December 2013

Locality and Quality of Life Budgets     Very good news for Woodbridge: in this electoral cycle there is a new system for allocating locality money. Instead of receiving a sum dependent on the number of the electorate -as happened in the past –  there is now a flat- rate sum for all councillors. This means that more Woodbridge every year.

The last expenditure from last year’s Locality budget are now going through. SCDC have ordered a replacement bench for the junction of Grundisburgh and Hasketon Roads, and I believe the funding for the materials for the wall/shed in Elmhurst Park has now been released.

Please do come to me if you have something that I could help fund.

Suffolk Walking challenge for Just 42    At the end of May I walked from Felixstowe to Lowestoft with Just 42′s fundraiser Julia Hancock and her dog, to raise funds to support the young people of Woodbridge and the surrounding rural areas. Thanks to a lot of very generous sponsors we’ve raised nearly £2500.   You can hardly believe the sheer amount of good that Just 42 will be able to do with such a sum!

  • On day 1 Julia Hancock, Celine the Dog and I raised enough to support 20 kids with complex needs for 3 weeks worth of Just42′s Mimic club;
  • On day 2 we raised enough extra to also support 30 kids at one of Just 42′s rural youth clubs for 6 weeks! ;
  • Day 3 we raised enough funding to also keep one of Just 42′s mobile youth clubs running for FIVE weeks;
  • On Day 4 – enough money to ALSO run a holiday club for 100 youngsters for a week!
  • Day 5 has raised enough to train 5 mentors who will support 15 young people in crisis every year!

Huge thanks to the many who sponsored us. And if you didn’t – there is still time to do so via Just Giving https://www.justgiving.com/Caroline-Page1/

Cycling festival and bicycle amnesty  The second Woodbridge cycling festival is on 15 June at Kingston Field. There will be a bicycle amnesty there, as there was last year – so if you have old bicycles or parts that have clogged your garage for years, please bring them along. They are sent by container to Africa where they have the potential tochange the lives of all sorts of people: traders, healthworkers, students.

Want to change trains? Speak now or forever hold your peace

Do you want our trains to run better? Do you want our trains to run differently? Do you want our trains to run to different priorities?  Now is the time to make your voice heard!

OK, If you don’t speak now, you don’t really need to hold your peace forever – but you won’t get a hearing till 2029.

Why? The Government will shortly be awarding the new franchise for the Greater Anglia services to run for 15 years from 2014 – and this means that Suffolk County Council will be making recommendations to Government  very soon as to what should be included in the franchise.

This is THE one opportunity for people in Suffolk to influence the Government before it draws up the contract so that the needs of Suffolk rail users are taken properly into account. We won’t have another chance until 2029

Why delay? Tell ’em today!  via this link

Evening buses: a slight improvement?

I am happy to report that after all my lobbying over the last years,  the situation for bus-users in Woodbridge has seen a marginal improvement.

Two weeks back saw the unheralded  addition of one later Monday-Saturday bus service  in each direction:  the new 64a – an evening service that passes the Ipswich Hospital. Woodbridge residents haven’t had this luxury since the evening 64 buses were renamed  62a and b,  rerouted to ensure they did not pass the Ipswich Hospital – or anywhere near – and then, as I predicted,  finally cut 18 months back “because usage was not sufficiently high” (you can read my report of this here).

As careful and neat piece of constructive dismissal as you can imagine!

Unfortunately the new later bus for people in Woodbridge – the 64a – only extends travel times to mid- evening,  an hour later than is currently available and  is at the expense of bus-users in Kesgrave. These were the Bixley residents who were serviced when the previous 64 services became the 62a/b services and were rerouted away from Ipswich Hospital and through Bixley.

(Confused? I think we were all meant to be. It made protest so much harder).

Even more unfortunately the direction  of the 64a is not ideal for Woodbridge users, because it goes to and from Woodbridge instead of the other way round. This  means that the  last 64a bus from the Ipswich hospital to Woodbridge is at 19.17 , yet the last bus from Woodbridge to the hospital and Ipswich is at 19.58).  As usual we in Woodbridge are easier to reach than to leave.

And of course the 64a does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem of Sunday and bank holiday travel.

Ah me. Seven years ago there were five or six buses an hour travelling from Woodbridge to Ipswich (and returning) four that wentvia the hospital  and a regular hourly service (from Ipswich out to Woodbridge and beyond, again via the hospital) that went on up to ten or eleven at night. I remember it well. And I can’t remember these buses being other than full.

But those were the days when bus routes were created to supply the demand, rather than altered every month or so, by people who want to use limited stock to make the greatest return, and with no feeling of responsibility for people who rely on their services…

Still, let us not be surly, because this additional service is jolly well better than nothing and please could everyone who needs an evening bus service use it as often as they can. For a start, it is a chance to match up hospital visiting by bus more exactly with the visiting times. For another, if we do not use it it will be withdrawn with as  little warning or advertisement as it – just as the  62a and b were 18 months ago.

As ever, its a case of ‘use it or lose it.’


Transport of delight? the view’s from the Clapham omnibus

We’re living through parlous times. The global financial situation grows ever more dire, more and more people are poorer and poorer, jobs are scarce, petrol is more expensive and public transport is becoming a greater necessity. Yet – just as under Labour and Conservative governments – rural buses provide a worse and worse service.  Public transport policy-making continues to be in the hands of  people who (may) intend well and probably think they know what they are talking about, but do not do so from any personal experience!
This is because the people who make the policy are principally town and city-dwellers. These are  people whose experience of rail closures is restricted to the vanishing of Trafalgar Square tube station, people who expect to walk out of an office and onto a bus, people who have a choice of publicly funded transport options to get them from a to b. These are people who only discover their transport-richness when there is a strike or a breakdown  – and who are then outraged at briefly having to face the same lifestyle as the rest of us. They expect automatically to be able to get on a bus or a tube or a local train  on an evening or a Sunday or a bank holiday when in the city. The countryside?  they don’t need buses to exist outside the M25. You reach your little place in the country by car.
In fact, they don’t know they’re born.
Maybe its not surprising that such folks do not realise that for many of us outside towns and cities  it is a luxury to get reliable public transport after six pm, on a weekday. (Or indeed to get any public transport at any time.)
Everyone in Britain helps support these planners’ ignorance of the facts of life, because we spend more on their public transport.  A lot more. A couple of years back, 42% of the UK’s public spending on buses was being spent in London to serve 15% of the population. In the same year (2009/10) each Londoner had £103.43 spent on their bus transport. As opposed to the £13.47 per capita spend we people in Suffolk received.
So when we country bumpkins come up to London and are impressed by how easy it is to get about, just remember, its because we are generously paying for this out of our own pockets!
Why? Because decisions have been made for years by a series of governments who are deeply prejudiced against poorer country dwellers, because they either don’t believe in or have no concern for rural poverty, that’s why!
This being the case, we need to fight for parity. Suffolk would do a lot better if its County Council Cabinet actually lobbied the Coalition government for a more equitable spend on public transport. (This isn’t a matter of party politics but of innate fairness. They didn’t lobby the Labour government either.)  Instead, time and time again, Suffolk’s County Council uses the current  – iniquitous – situation as an alibi for their own lack of interest, or spine.
In China they have a saying to explain why things are not as they should be  “The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away山  高  黄  帝  远.
So come on, SCC’s Cabinet – join us in shouting so loudly that the emperors of transport hear us in Whitehall, and on that pretty red bus in Parliament Square!

“Attention – this policy is reversing!” U-turn on young people’s travel

Hurrah – direct action and real democracy has finally paid off.

Yesterday – fifteen months after their short-sighted,  mean-minded and pennypinching  abolition of Suffolk’s Explore young person’s travelcard (halfway through the academic year, let me remind you!) –  the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council have announced a U-turn.   SCC will now be developing  an Oyster-type card “to help provide reduced travel costs for education, training and work-related travel” for young people, because – as Leader Mark Bee acknowledged -travel is such a problem for young people in our rural county.

As my son would say, no shit, Sherlock!

What Cllr Bee says is perfectly true. But it  is  hardly news. It’s now exactly a year since the County Council received that  6,000 signature petition and the personal representations from a huge range of people (including some very vocal, determined – and polite – members of Woodbridge’s Just 42) telling them just this!

When  the Conservatives originally argued the necessity of the Explore  cut on the grounds of cost, they were too shortsighted to recognise the costly damage it would cause to the educational, work and training prospects of a whole cohort of young people.  This harm was clear to anyone who looked at the facts rather than the ideology of the New Strategic Direction.  Indeed, in the middle of last year the Conservatives heard this information directly from me and other Lib Dem councillors, from schools and colleges, from parents and – most of all – from the young people affected.

We all told the Conservatives that scrapping the Explore card would – and did – cause huge problems to those who wanted to get an education and a job.  But -as the Cabinet member for Roads and Transport so memorably said -“you can’t spend a pound more than once.”   In such  circumstances, the wise idea is to choose carefully what you do spend your pounds on in the first place. This was the same Cabinet that agreed the expenditure of really quite a lot of pounds on Suffolk Circle.

Thursday’s announcement is welcome news – but sadly it is too late for some.  And the current announcement – despite the fanfare – is currently limited to Ipswich.Yet  Scrutiny established  at the end of last year that the young people living in Ipswich remained  best supported by bus services after the Explore cut. It was those in the rural parts of Suffolk – those with large distances to travel and no access to cars or petrol -who were most badly affected.

Now that this decision has been made, I urge the council to go beyond spin on this occasion and to roll out this new Oyster-type scheme as quickly as possible. We we need to reverse, wherever possible,  the harm they have caused and are continuing to cause to the next generation of Suffolk!