Bus relief for Halesworth

PEOPLE living in rural north Suffolk reacted with joy last night after discovering that vital bus services they feared would be cut are to be maintained.

Halesworth residents voiced concerns that they would be left “completely isolated” if Suffolk County Council plans to slash a raft of rural bus services went ahead.

The town faced being left with just the 588 service to Norwich and nearby Holton would have been left with no services. But it has now emerged that services between Halesworth, Beccles and Southwold are to be maintained after local bus operator Anglian Bus signed a new four-year contract.

People in the area are to get a further boost as the company revealed it would be introducing a new direct service from Halesworth to Lowestoft, every two hours, from April.

Anglian Bus director Andrew Pursey said: “There has been a lot of recent speculation in the press that Suffolk County Council will be making dramatic cuts to subsidies from April, in particular in the Halesworth area.

“Anglian Bus is pleased to announce that we have been successful in our tender to continue running the 520/522/523/524 bus services from April. The timetables will be changing slightly, to reflect the changes in concessionary fares and train times from Halesworth.

“Anglian Bus will be introducing a new commercial direct service from Halesworth to Lowestoft, from April, every two hours; and will also be increasing the frequency of buses from Wash Lane, Kessingland, to Lowestoft. Final timetables are still being finalised, but will come into effect on April 4, and will be available on our website prior to the launch.”

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The 520 service from Halesworth to Southwold is seen as particularly important, as passengers are able to connect with the 601 service which goes to Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth and provides transport to the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston.

Mr Pursey added: “We all know Norfolk and Suffolk county councils have huge budget constraints. We have been working very closely with them to see where we can make savings and reduce the burden to them and keep services in place.”

Mr Pursey hopes the direct service between Halesworth and Lowestoft will prove popular as currently people have to make a change.

The frequency of buses running through Kessingland will increase from every half an hour to every 15 minutes from April 4, he added.

Dawn Davis, Holton Parish Council transport representative, said: “It is even better than we could have hoped for. Everybody has been really worried. If they are running an hourly service from Halesworth to Lowestoft that is marvellous. It will be very popular.”

Rod Lock, secretary of the East Suffolk Travellers’ Association, added: “It is good to have this reassurance. It is good news.”

Halesworth town councillor Malcolm Smith said he was delighted by the news but added that there were still concerns about bus routes run by other companies.

l For more information visit www.anglianbus.co.uk