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Newsletter, October 2012 (Issue 189)

'Ipswich Bus Wars'


The 1985 Transport Act de-regulated the operation of bus services in the UK. Services would be operated on a commercial basis without a subsidy. Services which were not commercially viable but considered by a Local Authority to be required would be put out to tender and the successful operator awarded a subsidy. This legislation ended the system of Road Service licensing for local bus services set up in 1930 and replaced it by requiring operators merely to register services with the Regional Traffic Commissioners, giving 42 days (now 56 days) notice.

An effect of the Act was that 'bus wars' took place, particularly in some of the large towns and cities, to gain control of the most financially attractive routes. These 'wars' involved large national operators and small mostly local companies. Service frequencies were increased some fare incentives offered to attract passengers. When a large company had gained control, following withdrawal by other companies, frequencies were reduced and the fare incentives discontinued.

Ipswich has been free of any major 'bus war' until 29 July 2012 when First Group. Until recently the largest bus operator in the UK, launched a campaign on routes serving parts of the east of the town. This took the form of new services on routes very similar to those being operated by Ipswich Buses, together with the complete withdrawal of existing services along some roads. particularly in the evenings and on Sundays, and to a limited extent at all times. Ipswich Buses responded to the attack by increasing frequencies on some routes and the introduction of some modified and new services [X3 to Ravenswood, X5 to the Hospital and 6A to Cliff Lane]. Another result is that with more buses using Tower Ramparts bus station, Park & Ride services no longer stop there.

The present position is unsustainable with more than twenty buses an hour operating between the town centre and one area of east Ipswich. The outcome is awaited.

Russell Nunn

    Front cover of issue 189 Cover, issue 189

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