A new demand responsive community bus service is set to hit the road in East Suffolk next month.
The service will be introduced from Tuesday 11 April – subject to approval by the Community Partnership Board on 15 March – carrying passengers between Framlingham, Wickham Market, Campsea Ashe and Snape.
East Suffolk Council is developing the service alongside local community transport operator, CATS (Coastal Accessible Transport Service), in response to the announced closure of the Katch taxi bus service, which operated in the same area, just before Christmas.
The 11-seat minibus can be booked either by phone or via a new mobile app – currently in development ahead of the launch – and will initially operate for 12 months, funded by the East Suffolk Council Community Partnership Board, with the intention of extending the contract if there is sufficient demand.
A Transport and Travel task group, set up by East Suffolk Council’s Community Partnership Board to identify transport needs and opportunities across the district, found that demand responsive services could be a solution to rural transport issues and social isolation.
Meanwhile, transport and access to service have both been identified as priority issues for the Framlingham, Wickham Market and Villages Community Partnership, and the Aldeburgh, Leiston, Saxmundham and Villages Community Partnership.
The service will run from 07.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday, from 10am to 6.30pm on Saturdays, and from 10am to 6pm on bank holidays, with stops in Framlingham, Wickham Market, Campsea Ashe and Snape.
Journeys can be booked via a new mobile app or by calling CATS on 01728 635939 between 8.30am and 4.30pm on weekdays, with an adult return fare from Framlingham to Wickham Market costing £7.25. Regular users will be able to benefit from a loyalty card, while young people will get a 25% discount by presenting an Endeavour Card (free from Suffolk County Council for 16 to 19-year-olds).
Cllr Norman Brooks, East Suffolk Council cabinet member for transport, said:
“I’m delighted that we have been able to restore a community transport service for this area of East Suffolk.
“Reliance on cars means that people living in rural areas may face higher transport costs and find it harder to access education, training and employment by other means.
“This service will benefit those without access to a car, who require transport to and from a railway station to connect to an onward journey, or need to travel to school, college, training or employment. But it will also be ideal for days out to Framlingham Castle, Snape Maltings, or further afield, for those travelling onward from Wickham Market railway station in Campsea Ashe.
“Its success, and its future beyond this 12-month pilot, depends entirely on passenger uptake, so I would encourage people to get on board and take full advantage.”
The original Katch bus (pictured) was launched by Suffolk County Council, with support from East Suffolk Council and East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership, as a 12-month pilot in May 2021. It was then extended to last December, on a fixed-route between Framlingham, Wickham Market and Wickham Market railway station, in Campsea Ashe, and then extended to Snape.
Cllr Alexander Nicoll, Suffolk County Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport Strategy, said:
“Katch was a pilot scheme that set out to examine how future rural transport in Suffolk could be developed.
“We will be drawing on the knowledge gained from that pilot to help East Suffolk Council with its scheme, and we wish them every success in taking the service forward.”
For more information on the service, including fares, times and stops, call CATS on 01728 635939.