Life-saving SOS bus celebrates 21 years of helping revellers

SOS Bus on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich on a Saturday night.

SOS Bus on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich on a Saturday night. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

Twenty one years ago a brightly-coloured bendy bus parked in Norwich’s clubland for the first time to provide a safe space for revellers.

Since then the SOS Bus has become part of the Prince of Wales Road landscape at the weekends, reducing unnecessary emergency services call-outs and easing pressure on A&E during its peak times. 

SOS Bus volunteers.

SOS Bus is manned by volunteers including first-aiders, dedicated security and a paramedic. - Credit: SOS Bus

Each year it is estimated that this saves the ambulance service around £270,000.

Since it was established and launched in April 2001, the big, yellow bus has helped tens of thousands of people.

Every Friday and Saturday from 9.30pm to 3.30am, five volunteers, including two highly qualified first-aiders, dedicated security, and a paramedic are the first point of contact for anyone needing a safe, non-judgmental space. 

Scenes on SOS Bus

A reveller receives help on the SOS Bus in Norwich. - Credit: Emily Thompson

Pubs, clubs, and the emergency services also contact the SOS Bus if they have a concern for someone’s health or wellbeing.

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for inclusive and sustainable growth, said: “The SOS Bus has made an enormous contribution to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of young people using late night bars and clubs in the city. 

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“It provides a safe haven for those young people experiencing common problems on a night out, such as getting separated from their friends, missing the last train home, losing or needing to charge their phone or losing their purse or wallet. 

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth. Picture:

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

“It also helps with minor medical problems when people become unwell on a night out or perhaps have a fall.”

To raise awareness of the service as it reaches a big milestone, the SOS team brought the bus to Norwich city centre on Saturday and Sunday.

Launched in the wake of the tragic death of Nick Green, a teenager who died after falling into the river on night out in Norwich, the first bus was donated by Christian group Proclaimers International.  

Evening News cover of SOS Bus launch

Flashback - how the Evening News reported the launch of the SOS bus in April 2001. - Credit: Archant

The current SOS Bus is a charity run almost entirely by volunteers and managed by Voluntary Norfolk and relies on donations from individuals, organisations and businesses.

Beth Williams, SOS development manager said: “We have some great funders and partners, who support us with providing fresh water, essential power, storage space for our kit and vehicles when not in use, cleaning supplies, website management. 

Scenes in Norwich on Black Friday with the SOS Bus and emergency services. Photo: Emily Thomson

Scenes in Norwich with the SOS Bus team and emergency services. - Credit: Emily Thomson

“But donations also play an important part. It costs over £100,000 each year to keep this essential service running so a big part of what we do is fundraising.”

Fact file - SOS Bus

• Each year, a team of dedicated volunteers donate over 3,120 hours of their time to ensuring the service continues to run.

• That means volunteers have given a total of over 65,000 hours to support the service over the last 21 years.

SOS bus

The SOS Bus is a charity run almost entirely by volunteers and relies on donations. - Credit: SOS Bus

• The SOS Bus are keen to encourage new volunteers who can commit to at least one shift a month. Further information can be found at sosbus.co.uk/volunteer

• The SOS Bus is hoping to raise £21,000 this year to ensure it can continue to and support people on Friday and Saturday nights. Donations can be made via sosbus.co.uk/donate/