Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Northern Road for Ipswich

Last week we had another intolerable day of traffic logjam in Ipswich, off the back of several days of disruption across the town centre as road works collided with ever-increasing numbers of cars.

First things first: the reason why there is more day-to-day traffic in Ipswich is because our local economy is growing fast.  People who say that it has got a lot worse in the last few years are right: it has, and the reason is because there are more jobs here than ever before, more people moving around, more shopping and more leisure.  The reason all these cars get stuck is because Ipswich is built around a town centre that is Anglo Saxon and, in places, older still.  It is worth remembering next time you walk down Westgate Street, over the top of the Cornhill and through Tavern Street that you are treading an Iron Age drovers’ track that is over two thousand years old.

In the 50s and 60s, their answer to the clash of modernity with the ancient England was to engage the bulldozer.  The result is Star Lane which, when you see what was demolished to make way for it, will make you want to weep.  For once we can thank that mid-century Ipswich disease of never finishing anything properly for the fact that we still have Fore Street and St Nicholas’s Street, for both would have been demolished had the traffic madmen had their way.

These are more sensitive times – but until recently, they were also less ambitious.  Until a few years ago we were content just to manage the problem, and had backed away from serious schemes as we because increasingly afraid of our own possibilities as a serious town.

That has now changed.  We are thriving and growing.  There is much more to do but on whatever index you choose to look – house prices, vacant shops, jobs – we are doing well and doing better at an accelerating rate.  That is because we have decided to make a change; but it is also a pattern of growth that cannot be sustained if we do not continue to be ambitious about our future.

That is why I was determined to address the traffic issues of our town head-on.  The key was to find alternative routes across the town and to do so in short order.  That is why we began by assessing the relative merits of the two schemes that had been around for some time – the Northern Bypass and a Wet Dock Crossing.

What became clear pretty soon is that each scheme answered different problems.   Modelling shows that the bypass made very little impact on traffic volumes within the town itself on the 364 days when the Orwell Bridge is not shut, whereas the bridge has a significant impact every day of the year – reducing journey times across Ipswich by an average of 18% in the morning peak and 27% in the evening peak hours.  Moreover, and unexpectedly, the bridge relieved significant pressure from the Orwell Bridge in peak times, as it provides a better route for people who currently leave town on one side in order to come back in on the other.

A northern route, or bypass, or relief road – whatever it may be – solves a different problem, however.  It certainly provides resilience when the Orwell Bridge is shut – but that happens so rarely that it would be impossible to get the business case for several hundred million pounds to stack up on that alone.  What it does more usefully for the rest of the year is support growth to the north of the town, so that Ipswich can continue to grow without creating yet more traffic chaos.

So both of these solutions are ultimately necessary.  The last question is in what order you do them.  Frankly, that question answers itself.  The Upper Orwell Crossings, being over water, have very limited impact on people and property – and it is considerably cheaper than a northern route will be.  Moreover, it is easy to see where the route will be and can be delivered quickly.

By contrast, because of the complexity of a northern relief road, we do not yet even have general route options, let alone a chosen path, which means that we also have very little idea of what the costs will be.  Even when we have all that – and we are a couple of years still from that point – it will be many more years securing  money, planning permissions and land purchases before spades actually hit the ground.

This is our task, therefore: to move ahead with both projects as fast as we can, and in so doing we will deliver real improvements in traffic within the next five years, whilst ensuring we can cope with growth in the decades beyond that.  That is the plan – and now, unlike before, it is actually happening.
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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Ipswich Buses planned strike: emergency timetable

Ipswich Buses planned strike: emergency timetable, updates for parents and car park and travel advice

Ipswich Buses has published an emergency timetable for Monday 10th October for use if a one-day strike called by Unite the Union goes ahead.

The company is still committed to continuing talks in a bid to resolve the dispute but plans to get as many services as it can on the road, using double-decker buses where practical in order to help as many passengers as possible.

There will be a standard fare of £1 for all journeys – passes will be valid as usual. There will be no departures from Tower Ramparts after 7pm and most routes will not start until 7am. Full timetables are available from the Tower Ramparts Travel Shop and on the Ipswich Buses
Ipswich Buses plans to operate a reduced Park & Ride service at both Copdock and Martlesham. This service is managed by Suffolk County Council.

The emergency timetable is attached below but additional changes affecting schools and colleges are listed here:

·      Suffolk County Council has announced that all dedicated school bus services (i.e. contracted services specifically for schools) are being covered by other bus operators and will clearly display the relevant service number. 

·      Parents of children who use public bus services (irrespective of whether the County Council pays for their travel or not) are advised to check the Suffolk On Board website for details of whether the service will be running at a reduced frequency or not at all. 

·      Two County Council subsidised public services are also affected: Service 111 from Bildeston and 173 between Woodbridge and Felixstowe are to be replaced by another operator and Service 202 from Shotley will have two journeys operating to get students to and from college only.

·      Ipswich Buses will be operating the One sixth-form college routes from Felixstowe and Stowmarket.

·      Carter’s Coaches routes will not be affected by the strike action.

Car parks offer

Overall, it is expected there will be more congestion if the industrial action goes ahead. More people will be using cars to get into work, on school runs or entering or passing through the town.

As the town’s principal car park operator, Ipswich Borough Council plans to help reduce that congestion by cutting the cost of a day’s parking in its long-stay car parks to a maximum of £3 (from £5).
The Council will have staff at each of its main car parks to assist motorists find the best car parking.

Its own staff are being encouraged to adopt a more flexible working pattern to avoid the usual rush hour, and is encouraging car sharing and other ways of getting to work.

To find out the latest information on bus services on Monday, along with available car parking spaces updates, use @ipswichbuses on Twitter and the company’s Facebook page.


South-west Ipswich
Route 13 will run every 30 minutes and 15/15A will both be running every 60 minutes. Routes 12, 14 and 16 will not run. Ipswich Buses hopes some customers on these less busy routes will be able to walk to the routes that are running. Carters’ route 93 also serves London Road and Carters will run services as normal. There will be double-deckers on Park & Ride providing extra seats for One sixth-form college but this route will also only run every 30 minutes.

North-west Ipswich
Route 8 will run every 30 minutes and routes 9/10 will both be running every 60 minutes. First route 88 also serves Norwich Road and 89 serves Bramford Road and will run normally. Unfortunately, routes 17 and 19 will not be running. Some of the customers on these less busy routes might be able to walk to Norwich Road or Henley Road. Galloways' 115 and 116 services will be running normally on Henley Road.

North-east Ipswich
Route X5 to Ipswich Hospital will run every 30 minutes and 6/6A will both be running every 60 minutes. Passengers might also wish to use the Park & Ride between the town centre and the hospital stop on the Colchester Road/Woodbridge Road roundabout. First routes 64, 65 and 66 run frequently along Woodbridge Road and these will operate as normal. First Buses’ route 75 will be running normally along Spring Road and serves the Hospital. First’s service 59 to the Northgate area (off-peak only) will also be running as normal.

South-east Ipswich
Route X3 will run every 30 minutes with journeys to Ransomes Euro Park at peak times. Routes X1 and 4 will not run. First Buses provides alternative services to Nacton Road and Gainsborough on Routes 60/61 and to Felixstowe Road on services 76 and 77.

Wherstead Road and Shotley
A reduced timetable will apply on route 98/98A. Carters’ routes will run as normal. First X7 also serves Wherstead Road.

Country buses
Suffolk County Council is making arrangements for another company to run routes 111 and 173. Carters’ routes (92-96 etc) will run normally.

School and college buses
Ipswich Buses will run routes 11A, 18A, 501, 502, 914 and 988 as normal. Route 11B will not run. Other school contract buses will be provided by other operators for Suffolk County Council.

Town centre shuttle
The free town centre shuttle, route 38, will not be running.

Friday, 23 September 2016

What worth a councillor?

Ipswich Borough Councillors from all parties work hard for their communities. There are a very few exceptions but in the main we put in hours on casework, reading, attending meetings and training sessions, community events, committee meetings evening and daytime and we are on the end of a phone 24/7.

People have literally laughed when we've told them how much backbenchers receive when they find out it is less than £3800. Most are astonished.

We have refused the recommendations from the independent panel for over a decade and have not had an increase for 10 years.

Had we have taken their recommendations, the remuneration would now be a thousand pounds more a year than we currently receive. This would not have felt right in a time of austerity but I don't know of one single person who has not had a rise in over a decade, if they are still in the same place. Time to stop being embarrassed about this and do what's right, reward where it is due and value what we do.

Furthermore most of us do not claim for travel expenses to and from our meetings, as is our right. My only claims have been for unique travel to the Bournemouth LGA conference a couple of times in 10 years.

Some of us are out of pocket because of the time commitment we have to give (average of 15 hours per week but many do more) and all of us sacrifice family time and leisure on a regular basis. I'd like to think a reasonable person would recognise this and not begrudge us a penny.

I was determined to do something about this and so I contacted the leader of the council who agreed with me that we should have a consensus amongst the leaders of each party, on behalf of our groups.

Even though we can disagree vehemently on how to go about achieving our aims it is not as often as people might suspect. Our influence on national problems is limited but the one thing we must do together is ensure we attract good people to become councillors and that we encourage them from a wide, diverse background. My personal wish is for more young parents. Councillor Jones said at the council meeting that they don't have any special talents. I disagree. All ages have their own special unique talents and wisdom. I think an old wise head with experience of life is equally valuable - just in a different way but I don't want to mix with just wise old heads in my political world.

The point is our low remuneration (one of the lowest for backbenchers but one of the highest for special responsibility) needed addressing and I felt we should value ourselves a bit more than to just take the easy route and ignore the whole thing once again.

Ignoring would've meant in 4 years time at the next review, we would've fallen even more behind and this would be a huge decentivisation, requiring an even bigger increase.

An alternative proposal to the one put forward by the panel, was agreed together which corrected my concerns - increase backbenchers basic allowance and re-calculate the special responsibility allowance to address the inbalance and shrink the gap between the 2.

I was upset with the Ipswich Star yesterday and I said so at the meeting. Cllr Ellesmere and the Mayor both concurred. Their headline did not reflect what was actually going on and all the facts.

I'm looking forward to seeing the follow up and apology in todays paper