On Thursday Suffolk County Council will debate a Labour Motion to save the free shuttle bus in the Town Centre which the Conservative administration has decided to axe without any consultation with the users, disabled people, its own staff, or even the rest of the Councillors. I need to declare an interest – I am still a County Councillor, as well as being MP for Ipswich, and I hope to take part in the debate on Thursday. And I’m also interested because the shuttle is an important transport service in Ipswich. It’s not just about the actual shuttle bus journeys – because it’s there, people can take the bus or cycle to the County Council, Borough Council, High Court, and numerous other workplaces, knowing that they can go into the town centre quickly and easily during their lunch break, and get back to Tower Ramparts or the Old Cattle Market after work. So getting rid of the shuttle bus won’t just depress the town centre trade at lunchtime. It will also add to the cars during rush hours. Up until Tuesday, you can sign the petition to save it at suffolklabourgroup.org.
We all want Ipswich to flourish, and we need to sort out the congestion in our streets. There are some possible major projects ahead. I am convinced that Ipswich will get its northern road, and sooner rather than later, especially if a more modest road closer in to the town is chosen. The immediate priorities are to reduce the traffic and air pollution in Chevalier Street and Norwich Road, to enable people in the North and East to access the A14 westwards without having to come into the town centre, to reduce the congestion in Colchester Road and Valley Road, and to provide an additional route for new housing to the north of Ipswich. A new northern road would also provide a much better diversion route for the times when the Orwell Bridge is closed. The recent announcement from the government of extra money for these sorts of projects gives me hope that we can now start to take this road seriously.
I also look forward to the construction of the bridges to the Island in the Wet Dock as I think this will help in the regeneration of the Waterfront area. I am still not convinced that we need the big bridge over the Orwell, or even whether it is possible to build it. I repeat what I said in my article two weeks ago – this project will be carried through by the County Council working in conjunction with the Government. It is not up to me whether it gets built or not. But if I can draw people’s attention to the possible problems in time, we might avoid the scenario of Boris’s Garden Bridge in London which cost £37 million in preparation costs before the plug was finally pulled.
Actually, we can do a lot by small scale improvements to junctions and traffic management in Ipswich town centre, and by making it easier and more pleasant for people to travel by means other than by car. If the County Council is serious about reducing congestion and protecting the environment, why have they:
- Closed the Bury Road Park & Ride, and put Park & Ride services to Martlesham and Copdock on a shakier financial basis
- Failed to support additional cycle parking at Ipswich Station
- Refused to commit to bus route improvements in the St Helens Street area, and on the Hawthorn Drive/Birkfield Drive/Ancaster Road route – Labour would want to re-open Rope Walk for public transport and cycles, which would also free up space in St Helens Street for other traffic
- Allowed Kier (the privatised Highways contractor) to charge enormous sums of taxpayers’ money for “designing” 20mph schemes in residential streets, but won’t find the money to implement them – and that goes for other small-scale schemes like crossings and bus shelters as well
I want to see a proper Ipswich transport forum, with the County Council, Borough Council, bus companies, taxi drivers, and representatives of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, to discuss all the small-scale improvements which the Travel Ipswich project so singularly failed to deliver. When the streets are safer and more pleasant, more people will walk, more people will cycle, more people will travel by bus, and those of us who need to make our journey by car, van or lorry will find the streets less congested.