06:00 Wednesday 04 June 2014

Councillor calls for future of Absolutely bus service in Ely to be safeguarded

Written byJORDAN DAY

Cllr Sue Austen Cllr Sue Austen

A popular bus service is at risk of ceasing next year unless extra funding is found or contracts are extended.

The ‘Absolutely’ bus service in Ely could fold in February when the initial three-year Sainsbury’s contract comes to an end.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Sue Austen, who represents Ely West ward, is campaigning for the service to be retained.

She said: “This bus service enables people without their own transport to get into the city centre and use local shops and facilities.

“It also encourages others to leave their car at home when shopping locally.

“Users of the Absolutely bus service are worried about to how they will shop once this service has been withdrawn.”

The service runs six days a week and links people who live on the outskirts of Ely with the city centre and the Sainsbury’s store in Lisle Lane.

It also provides a stop at the Back Hill end of Broad Street which is useful for commuters travelling to and from the railway station.

‘Absolutely’ was launched in February 2012 for three years, with an option to extend for a further two years.

It has been funded partly by an £800,000 contribution from Sainsbury’s - and was procured jointly by the district and county councils.

Discussions are taking place with the developers of North Ely about a possible contribution to a continued service, but even if this is agreed there would be a considerable gap until new arrangements are put in place.

Cllr Austen said: “I’m calling on the district and county councils to ensure that this route is retained and people on the outskirts of our growing city can continue to use public transport to get around.”

A spokesman for East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “The first three years of the contract of the Absolutely service finishes in February 2015 but there is the option to extend this.

“This will be reviewed by members at the relevant committee in the near future to allow them to decide whether they wish to use the remaining Section 106 fund from Sainsbury’s to keep the service running.”

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