Suffolk buses set to install smart ticketing under £50m plans

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Suffolk County Council has approved a £50m bid to improve bus services across the region, with contactless payments and multi-operator ticketing introduced. 

The proposal, which includes wider bus coverage, smart ticketing, and better evening and weekend services, falls under the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), and will be submitted to the UK government by the end of the month.

Councillor Richard Smith, cabinet member for economic development, transport and waste, at Suffolk County Council said the BSIP is a real opportunity to revitalise bus services in Suffolk.

“An efficient bus network is key in providing a viable alternative to the private car and encouraging people on to public transport,” he said.

“Developing areas such as rural services, plus developing features like smart ticketing to improve the passenger experience, will help increase the use of public transport which in turn can reduce congestion in our towns and provide a cleaner and greener environment.

“Transport is a significant contributor to carbon emissions; increasing the use of sustainable transport will play an important role in achieving carbon reduction in Suffolk.”

The funding bid is being made to the government’s £3bn fund, part of its Bus Back Better national bus strategy for England, outside of London. The council will be asking for a minimum of £50m over three years – £15m each for the first two years and £20m for the third.

Proposed features of the BSIP include reviewing service frequency on Suffolk’s key corridors, including evening and weekend services. The plans also propose simplified services, including regular timetabled buses and ‘demand-responsive’ services.

Under the BSIP, the council will consider expanding the experimental Katch electric demand-responsive bus, currently being trialled between Framlingham and Campsea Ashe for Wickham Market railway station to other rural areas.

It will also identify and implement bus priority opportunities and changes to parking on key corridors, with particular focus on the ‘last mile’ where buses are delayed by congestion approaching destinations.

Regarding ticketing the BSIP includes lower fares for those aged up to 25, contactless touch-on/touch-off ticketing, and daily fare caps and multi-operator ticketing. The council will also explore expanding rail and bus ticket options (PlusBus).

If funding is secured, it will also look to develop existing park and ride sites as mobility hubs and identify new ones to serve rural areas or new development sites. The council will also explore merging Ipswich’s two bus stations into one main hub.

The bid will be submitted to the government by October 31 for consideration. Following on from the submission of the BSIP, the council, bus operators and other stakeholders will work together to establish a countywide enhanced partnership.

This will enable the BSIP proposals to be delivered, building on experience gained from the existing Ipswich Quality Bus Partnership.

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