Bus use in Norfolk is now almost back to the levels before the Covid pandemic as passengers return to public transport, new figures have revealed.

And, with the government providing millions of pounds in support to bus companies to cap fares at £2, the number of fare-paying passengers is now higher than it was in 2019.

But older people have been more reluctant to return to the buses since the pandemic, with levels at 83pc what they were before Covid.

New figures released by Norfolk County Council reveal more than 2.2m journeys were made on the county's bus network in September this year.

That was 99pc of the number travelling in October 2019 - which was before the pandemic.

Of those, almost 1.66m were fare-payers, compared to 1.55m in October 2019 - an increase of 7pc.

But concessionary fare-payers - such as older people with bus passes was still lower than before the pandemic, at nearly 574,000, compared to almost 648,000 pre-Covid.

Leaders at Conservative-controlled County Hall said improvements have been made to bus services using almost £50m the council got from the Department for Transport.

Norwich Evening News: Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transportGraham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport (Image: Archant)

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "These figures are a testament to all the fantastic work being delivered as part of our bus service improvement plan.

"From campaigns to encourage more people to choose the bus, to the huge number of service improvements, cheaper fares and improved bus stops - it has all come together to bring hundreds of thousands of people back to the bus.

"The pandemic hit our bus services hard so getting more people on board was vital for ensuring these important services remain viable and running for the future."

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About £12m of the money was allocated to providing new or expanded bus routes and increased service frequencies on key routes, including more evening and weekend services.

The council says 31 enhancements have been made to services, bringing more regular buses to 93 parishes with a population of more than 306,000 people.

There are now more evening services on key routes across 21 parishes, including to Dereham, Watton, Thorpe St Andrew and Horsford.