Last week's news that the Stowmarket Shuttle, or bus route 87 as it is more prosaically described, is to cease operating in November, is bad news for the residents of Stowupland in particular. It was bad enough when the through service to Needham Market and Ipswich was lost, even though the timetable did theoretically allow for a connection in Stowmarket to route 88, newly extended to Ipswich Hospital, but this does come as a blow.
|An 87 bus in Stowupland, soon to be history?|
Whilst campaigning in the village two years ago as part of my candidacy for the District Council, I highlighted the loss of the Sunday and evening bus service and its impact on those people who had moved to Stowupland precisely because of its transport links - better than most other mid-Suffolk villages.
At one point, buses penetrated into the side roads of Stowupland - curiously, the bus stops remained long after the buses had been withdrawn - and it did seem strange that, given the number of elderly residents, a service using smaller vehicles had not been tried, rather than the full size buses used by First Group.
First Group have run the service without subsidy from the County Council since they changed the routes around last year, with the main route 88 linking Stowmarket with Ipswich, and route 87 now linking Violet Hill, Combs Ford and Stowupland with Stowmarket using a clover-leaf route every hour. They indicate, and I have no reason to doubt them, that serving Stowupland cannot be done on a commercial basis, thus their decision to withdraw.
What this means is that bus passengers in the village will have to rely on an occasional service between Mendlesham and Stowmarket, or switch to the Suffolk Links demand responsive service, unless the County Council can come up with some money - not something that inspires hope given the pressure on their budget.
Given that the Suffolk Links Gipping North service covers a swathe of villages across mid-Suffolk with only one vehicle, I fear that this means increased isolation for a number of elderly, potentially vulnerable people, so one can only hope that a solution can be found, and quickly.