People living in rural Suffolk are now better connected thanks to the introduction of a new electric taxi-bus service which links Framlingham and Wickham Market with the nearest Greater Anglia rail station.
‘Katch’ provides new public transport options for local residents and visitors to Wickham Market and Framlingham, as well as for those who need to meet their rail connections at Wickham Market train station in Campsea Ashe.
Led by Suffolk County Council, with support from East Suffolk, it has been funded through a partnership between East Suffolk Council, Framlingham Town Council, Wickham Market Parish Council, Community Rail Network, East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership, Greater Anglia and CarsSmart, following a commitment by Suffolk councils to grow the region’s passenger transport in a sustainable way.
Because the vehicles are electric with the energy supplier using renewable sources, the new service helps to cut carbon emissions. Suffolk County Council’s target of being carbon neutral is 2030, twenty years ahead of the UK Government target.
The East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership and Community Rail Network Development Fund from the Department of Transport provided a £7700 grant to fund the installation of the electric vehicle charging points for Katch buses to use at Wickham Market rail station at Campsea Ashe.
The new service had a soft launch on 17 May 2021 and will run as a trial for 12 months.
Each vehicle can carry up to eight people.
It is available seven days a week from 6.30am to 10.30pm on Mondays to Saturdays and 9am to 7pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
All journeys must be booked in advance via the Katch App or telephone by calling 01728 55 44 55. The cost of a return journey is £7 and a single journey is £4 for an adult or children’s fares are £3 return and £1.50 single. Payment can be made via the app, contactless or with cash.
Aaron Taffera, Chair of the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership, said, “We were very keen to support the introduction of this service to make it easier for people to access train travel in a rural area; at the same tourists will now be able to easily visit Framlingham Castle using the rail network.
“With rail travel being the third most sustainable form of transport after walking and cycling, a combined journey using the train and Katch will help to cut down on emissions and pollution from car use in our countryside and encourage people back to rail once restrictions are lifted.”
Councillor Alexander Nicoll, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport Strategy and County Councillor for the Wickham Division (covering Wickham Market and Campsea Ashe), said, “The start of the Katch taxi-bus pilot, delayed by the pandemic, heralds a significant and innovative response led by Suffolk County Council to the twin threats of rural isolation and climate change.
“The new all electric buses will serve communities where other public transport options are limited or irregular and help improve interconnectivity of travel by including the station, located at Campsea Ashe, as a key stop on the circular route taking in Framlingham, Wickham Market and Campsea Ashe.
“I wish to put on record my huge thanks to everyone who has worked hard to make this happen and I hope that local people, businesses and visitors will find the Katch service helps them both plan more convenient journeys and make easier local connections.”
Councillor Steve Gallant, Chair of the East Suffolk Community Partnership Board, said, “East Suffolk Council is really pleased to be able to support this new service which provides a flexible and accessible solution to the travel needs of local people and visitors alike. Not only does Katch support our environmental vision by offering a sustainable travel option, but it also provides a vital connection for many people who may not be able to get around easily otherwise.”
For more details on the service, how to book and the mobile apps see the Katch website