A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by BBC Radio Suffolk to speak to South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo about the key issues we face as his constituents. I wrote a blog post about it at the time, but to summarise, I didn't think Tim Yeo had been particularly visible in this area, especially since his de-selection last year. On air Mr Yeo was rather defensive, pointing out that he had been instrumental in the building of the new health centre in Sudbury. Without it, he explained, we would have to travel to Bury St Edmunds from Sudbury to the hospital; an unpleasant journey if you rely on public transport and you're not feeling at your best.
Back in 2004 - 11 years ago now - Mr Yeo had taken this very bus trip from Sudbury to Bury. I know because he told me several times on the radio when I was asking him about his promises for local businesses. When asked if I'd ever taken the bus to Bury, I replied truthfully that no, I hadn't. My business and life is very much based locally around Sudbury, and I have car for journeys further afield.
But I promised I would take that bus as soon as I could, and I like to keep my promises. So, Mr Yeo, I dedicate this week’s bus trip from Sudbury to Bury to you!
I was accompanied on the outward journey, by Sudbury-based business owner and professional makeup artist Emma Quin. By sheer coincidence I was also joined by Bobby Bayley from fabulous hairdressers Shear Genius. The double decker 753 Chambers Bus arrived on time with an extremely friendly bus driver (who let me take his photo) at the wheel. A return journey cost me £7. This was a little more than I was expecting, but still a good deal cheaper than running a car, filling up with fuel and paying for parking.
The bustling town of Bury St.Edmunds is around 25 minutes’ drive from Sudbury. On the bus the journey takes over an hour. The route is however scenic and beautiful, and because we were sitting up on the top deck I could really appreciate the local landscapes that I don't normally see when concentrating in the car while chatting with my children. It was a lovely morning with sunshine and blue skies, and Lavenham and Long Melford villages looked particularly pretty.
The flip side to the pleasant scenery is that this bus route literally does go ‘around the houses’. It stops very frequently, in every residential area along the way. The novelty of the sun-dappled fields and quaint Tudor houses would very soon wear off if I had to make this return journey every day. How many people are put off using the bus because it takes twice the time it would take in a car? Perhaps there are lost employment opportunities with potential employees turned off by the long commute? I wondered how isolated I'd feel if I relied on buses fully, and weighed up the pros and cons of express services and those that included as many residents along the route as possible. Should we push for greater investment in local public transport? Perhaps there should at least be an additional direct Sudbury to Lavenham service at peak times?
I was recently chatting with TheBestOfSudbury member Abbie Thoms, of Polyspiral Graphic Design. As a non-driver, she relies heavily on public transport, and especially local buses. I asked her about her experiences. The lack of frequent services often means she's has to choose between either rescheduling meetings or arriving incredibly early. The snow earlier this year meant her bus was cancelled and she ended up sharing a taxi home with two strangers. The only bus available hadn't stopped in her village, so she'd been stranded three miles from home. If you need to catch multiple buses to complete your own journey, you’ll know that this complicates matters considerably, taking far longer than necessary to reach your destination. If you live in Glemsford for example, and need to get a bus to Haverhill, you’ll soon discover that they only run every two hours, making it nearly impossible to meet morning appointments.
So, Mr Yeo, I can report first-hand that if I were sick, elderly or otherwise incapacitated, I don't believe that I would find getting the bus from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds would be that much fun. And I certainly would never deny that the new health centre is a great asset to our town. However I think there is a whole other debate that needs to be had about the efficiencies and budgets of our rural public transport system. If you don't have a car and you work away from home, then getting around just isn't easy an easy business. Taking a one-off journey from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds on the other hand, perhaps grabbing a coffee in the market square or taking in a quick half in the Nutshell with a friend, can actually be rather pleasant!
What do you think about our local transport system? Do any of these issues affect you, your family or your business? Please get in touch and let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
Member since: 17th March 2014
Hello! I'm Penny from thebestof Sudbury, shouting about the best local businesses from Hadleigh through the Clare. When I'm not doing that, you'll find me knitting socks or tending to my 6 chickens