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Residents fury as Stagecoach axe off-peak services from Littleport to Ely

Buses also featured in a question to the leader from Soham councillor Lucius Vellacott

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A councillor criticised Stagecoach for cutting services from Littleport that he claims will stop residents from accessing Ely for hospital appointments and shopping. Cllr Mike Goodearl told East Cambridgeshire councillors this week that people in Littleport “and the wider area are upset to hear that Stagecoach are making large reductions to the number 9 bus service in April.

“This will mean a massive loss of service to the residents of Littleport especially those who cannot drive requiring to get an appointment at the walk-in medical facilities at the former RAF hospital the Princess of Wales or access to Ely for day-to-day tasks such as shopping or visiting friends and family.”

Cllr Goodearl added: “I’m aware that Cllr Anna Bailey (council leader) has been in discussions with the officers of the Combined Authority.

“Can the leader of the council please give us an update on what the Combined Authority is planning to do to restore the service for my residents and residents of other wards on this route?”

Cllr Bailey said she had met with Stagecoach officials to discuss the changes.

She said it would see a reduction of three buses to one on the route.

“I think it’s fair to say the biggest impact is for Littleport residents is being the loss of most of the off-peak buses from Littleport to Ely”.

She said Stagecoach would maintain the commuter times “and the changes are due to happen as you said in mid-April.

“I have met with Combined Authority officers about this, and they’ve agreed to work up a plan and a timetable for a service to be tendered by the Combined Authority to work around the operating hours of the reduced Stagecoach service.”

She said the tender would need to be checked for legality and if a new service was introduced it would mean, hopefully, ticketing co-operation to make sure that people can use their tickets interchangeably on the two services.

“If you buy a return you can get on the other service when you come home,” she said.

At the moment she had not heard back from the Combined Authority.

Buses also featured in a question to the leader from Soham councillor Lucius Vellacott.

He queried the 200 per cent increase in the precept raised by the Mayor, Dr Nik Johnson, “and whilst the service linking Soham and Cambridge in the proposals is welcomed, my residents in Wicken will not see any benefit.

“Those living in the village need to access all their local services in Soham so I always make the point that with access to Soham train station just one bus would link with the world and the world with an internationally renowned Nature Reserve at Wicken Fen”.

He asked Cllr Bailey to examine the viability of a two-hourly service.

Cllr Bailey said she did not support the mayor’s precept when he introduced it for the first time in 2023 “and I didn’t support the 200% increase to it this year”.

East Cambs council leader Anna Bailey (left) faced questions at this week’s council meeting from Cllr Mike Goodearl (right) about bus cuts affecting Littleport and from Cllr Lucius Vellacott requesting bus services to Wicken.

East Cambs council leader Anna Bailey (left) faced questions at this week’s council meeting from Cllr Mike Goodearl (right) about bus cuts affecting Littleport and from Cllr Lucius Vellacott requesting bus services to Wicken.

She said she noted at the time East Cambridgeshire residents, responding to a Combined Authority consultation, had shown 66 per cent were not willing to pay it to fund buses.

And in Fenland, she said, the figure was 77 per cent “and I think perhaps that’s because despite the mayor’s promises about levelling up public transport in the rural and deprived areas he has really made no progress on that to date”.

Cllr Bailey spoke of the “chaos and dysfunctionality of the first two years at the Combined Authority” under Mayor Johnson.

And she claimed that whilst other combined authorities had received millions towards public transport, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough got nothing.

“As far as I can tell this failure is being charged to local taxpayers,” she said.

“Devolution for me should be about receiving funding and powers down from government not a new excuse to tax local people.

“Frankly it was unnecessary and not least the mayor continues to support unsustainable bus routes”.

She said Labour and Lib Dem board members at the Combined Authority all supported the 200 per cent precept increase “and so now obviously we’ve got to try and make the best of it here in East Cambs”.

Three new routes were proposed for East Cambridgeshire as well as improvements on the B1102 corridor and in addition there’s also a plan to use some government funding for a demand responsive transport pilot East Cambridgeshire, she said.

She told Cllr Vellacott that none of these proposals currently include Wicken “so I will of course take this up with the Combined Authority to see what’s possible and report back.

“And I do hope that the new funds raised through the mayor’s precept are not simply swallowed up rescuing commercially run services but with the recent announcement by Stagecoach to make significant changes to their Littleport to Cambridge number 9 service things haven’t begun well on that front and I fear we may see more of that to come.

“So, what new services East Cambridgeshire residents actually get from this new local taxation remains to be seen”.

 

East Cambs council leader Anna Bailey (left) faced questions at this week’s council meeting from Cllr Mike Goodearl (right) about bus cuts affecting Littleport and from Cllr Lucius Vellacott requesting bus services to Wicken.

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