Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Which Bus Do I Want?

One of the things I found strange when I moved to Ipswich was the number of bus companies.

Any web search will reveal Ipswich Buses, one of the few bus companies in the country in which the local council still have a stake! A quick trip to the office at Tower Ramparts will even furbish you with paper copies of the route map, various timetables and multi-ride tickets.

However, depending on your route across Ipswich, you'll also spot the bus garage at the Cattle Market. Here one finds the office for First buses and, once again, it's possible to collect maps and timetables, and to buy tickets.

But it doesn't take long before one notices that each office supplies only information about their 'own' buses. So, if you want to catch an Ipswich Bus into the town centre and then catch a First bus to the coast, you will need to visit both offices (or both websites) to collect all the relevant information.

While waiting for a bus at the Cattle Market, it quickly becomes apparent that even this isn't the end of the story. There is now a direct link to the airport, supplied by Airport by Coach. Plus there is the Park and Ride service, Carters Coach Services, Beestons, Simonds and Galloway. All with their own offices, websites, timetables and ticketing systems. The fact that Far East Travel ceased trading in March 2012 has reduced the problem slightly! (A Soames & Sons may also have joined them, or they may just not have a website.)

Suffolk County Council, with their Suffolk On Board website has tried to address the problem of finding out about the local buses, but their maps are colourful but not very useful and, without access to a PC, the information is not easily obtained. I did, once, pick up a copy of their route map when I was at the Ipswich Music Day, but they didn't have any maps available at last year's Music Day.

If you want information about how to get from Point A to Point B then you have to resort to the traveline website, and it's unclear which buses this covers.

Bus deregulation was brought in, by the Tories, in 1985. In the intervening years, any number of people have written about how it doesn't work (as any search engine will quickly reveal). Until I moved out of London, and away from regulated buses, I hadn't realised just how difficult it could be to even find out which bus goes to the place you wish to visit. If the Government is serious about getting people out of their cars then, in my view, they have to address the lack of integrated information about local bus services. If it's easier to put a destination into a sat-nav and jump into a car, who is going to bother trying to catch a bus?


  1. Howdy - just found you after seeing your comment at my place, which I have been shaefully neglecting...

    I would happily waffle on about the perils of publicity for public transport and how it has all gone downhill since I changed jobs but who knwos where thsi might get seen!

    But, the Suffolk CC booklets should be available at both Ipswich bus stations, containing all service info for everyone.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Simon. I will have another look for the Suffolk CC leaflet but, last time I was in the Ipswich Bus Office, they didn't have one on display. I will admit I didn't ask for one; I just collected a copy of the new timetable for my bus home, which was on display.