Ipswich Buses Limited
Ipswich Borough Council currently owns Ipswich Buses Ltd., although it operates as a stand alone company. It inherited a fleet of around 75 vehicles and 2 depots. Priory Heath depot was closed in 1986/7 after the facilities at Constantine Road had been increased. Minibuses were introduced to Ipswich for the first time in late 1986, purchased to operate new routes in estates where full size buses could not gain access.
Expansion enabled by the 1985 Transport Act ensued in the late 1980s. In 1987 a coaching division was set up following the take-over of Bantam Coaches of Ipswich. Rural services were acquired with local bus operators Bickers of Coddenham in 1988 and Squirrells of Hitcham in 1989. These networks were branded "Suffolkbus" and continue to operate today. Ipswich Travel, the coaching division, was not so lucky and was sold in 1992.
The threat of competition arose in 1994 when Mainline of Sheffield planned to operate 10 buses over Ipswich Buses most profitable routes. In the end Mainline changed their minds and sold their buses to Eastern Counties who now jointly operated some town services with Ipswich Buses until the end of October 2000. Since this date First Eastern Counties have operated the Greenwich and Bixley routes and Ipswich Buses the remainder of the town network.
The majority of new buses purchased between 1986 and 1998 were single deck including full size saloons and midibuses. In 1997 the first Park and Ride buses were acquired; today twelve buses serve three sites under contract to the county council. These services ran until 2008, when the contract was lost to First Eastern Counties.
Since 2000 a return to double deck buses has seen new and used low floor double deckers enter the fleet. By the end of 2006 only a few step-entrance vehicles remained in use and the fleet is now fully accessible, except some older school buses. In 1995 a Metrorider bus was converted to run on compressed natural gas. It was mooted that the gas fuel was less polluting than diesel. However, the trial was not considered to be a success. In 2005 an diesel/electric hybrid Optare Solo midibus was acquired; after nearly two years out of use, regular operation of the vehicle commenced during 2007. The trial was not successful and this bus was converted to conventional diesel power after a short period.
A proposed investment of 49% of the company by Go Ahead Group was considered in 2010, but rejected by Ipswich Borough Council, and Ipswich Buses remains 100% council owned at the time of writing (Feb 2012).
The current fleet has approximately 70 vehicles.