Threat to bus services in Ely and Wisbech

Uncertainty over future of Zipper bus in and around Ely

Uncertainty over future of Zipper bus in and around Ely - Credit: ECDC

Pressure is mounting to save community bus services in Ely and Wisbech.  

Ely Zipper service and Service 68 in Wisbech (known as the Tesco bus) are among those threatened.  

East Cambridgeshire District Council says Grovemere Property has joined them in stepping to to save the Ely Zipper bus service for the immediate future. 

In Wisbech users of the ‘Tesco bus’ remain fearful.  

East Cambs Counci has joined with Grovemere Property Limited to help underwrite the service which was at “imminent risk of collapse”. 

The Zipper offers an hourly service between Ely, Witcham, Haddenham, Wilburton, Stretham and Little Thetford for six days a week over the past eight years.  

An East Cambs Council spokesperson said operator Dews Coaches first sought help from the district council in May to tackle an issue with the service with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA). 

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They stated that “despite the Ely Zipper running at 87 per cent of pre Covid passenger levels they were running at a loss due to rising fuel costs and would need to give notice on the contract early”.   

CAPCA said they recognise the importance of bus services and that operators throughout the country face increased pressure following the end of the post Covid bus recovery grant.  

A spokesperson said that Mayor Dr Nik Johnson had contacted Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, to express his concerns. 

He had also outlined “the steps we wish to take to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society and our environment do not suffer the detrimental side effects of this decision”. 

The spokesperson said that “due to the immediate nature of the financial implications on the bus services nationally” a process was being put in place to support key services. 

Decisions would made on a case-by-case basis. 

Assessments would made through a “transparent and robust process” to assess and prioritise bus services.  

“In the meantime, the Combined Authority would be happy to continue to support the operator in question and to explain the process that the Board will be asked to support.” 

East Cambs Council says that without intervention, the Zipper, which carries out 22.000 passenger journeys a year, would end in September.  

East Cambs leader Anna Bailey told Mayor Johnson that “given the relatively modest sums involved, it would be a false economy not to support the service through to the point of retendering". 

She added: “I appreciate the Combined Authority and the mayor are going through very difficult times at the moment, but they need to step up and pay attention to these issues.   

“I am calling on them to do the right thing and recompense district council tax payers and Grovemere Property for the £10,400 we have jointly underwritten the service by." 

SOS to save Wisbech 'Tesco Bus'

SOS to save Wisbech 'Tesco Bus' - Credit: Contributed

The Ely Zipper is supported financially by Grovemere Property Limited as part of its planning obligations to expand Lancaster Way Business Park.  

Cllr Bill Hunt, who campaigned for the Zipper, said he would be devastated to see it die.   

“It's proved so popular, we were working on setting up a Zipper 2, to run between Market Street in Ely, the Hive, the Princess of Wales Hospital, Sutton, Witcham and Witchford,” he said.  

 Lib Dem opposition leader Lora Dupre said: “The Government is about to withdraw Covid financial support from bus operators in Cambridgeshire and across the country.  

“I understand Combined Authority leaders will be considering their response this week. 

“But it is obvious that this move by the Government has the potential to affect many bus services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, not just the Ely Zipper.” 

She said it was vital decisions affecting all bus services in the county would made “in a clear and transparent way”. 

Wisbech Rosmini Centre said it was “trying to spread the word” to retain Service 68 (a.k.a Wisbech Tesco Bus).  

“We are hoping this will have a positive impact, so everyone, who is using the bus, can continue to benefit from it,” said a spokesperson. 

Stretham councillor Lisa Stubbs said: “The mayor and the Combined Authority are supposed to be expanding bus services, not letting them wither and die.”