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Surge in people using buses in Norwich as city bucks national trend

PUBLISHED: 15:35 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:35 09 November 2019

Bosses at First say they have seen an increase in passengers using their Norwich buses. Photo: Steve Adams

Bosses at First say they have seen an increase in passengers using their Norwich buses. Photo: Steve Adams

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The number of people using buses in Norwich is increasing - as the city bucks the national trend of falling journeys being taken by bus.

Chris Speed, operations manager at First Eastern Counties. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYChris Speed, operations manager at First Eastern Counties. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Bosses at First and Konectbus both say that they have seen an increase in passengers, on the back of a string of changes made to roads around Norwich to make services more reliable.

Operators say money they are spending on new buses - including more environmentally friendly ones - shows their commitment to improving services.

In 2017/18, the number of bus journeys made in Great Britain fell by more than 90 million, but a meeting of Norfolk Bus Forum in Norwich on Saturday heard positive news around the city.

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties, said: "In Norwich we are bucking the national trend of decreasing passengers. We have seen a 5pc increase in our passengers and if you look at the pink line, blue line and red line there's been a 10pc increase in passengers."

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First's pink line includes the number 11 and 12 routes which run from Wroxham to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital via the city centre.

The blue line is the 25 and 26 from the railway station to the University of East Anglia/Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, while the red line includes the 23 and 24 services from Queen's Hills/Costessey to Thorpe St Andrew/Heartsease.

First had come in for criticism for the age of some of its fleet, but Mr Speed said a "large number" of new buses would be coming to the city in January - with older, more polluting buses, phased out by the end of the year.

Mr Speed said £18m was being invested in new vehicles and in an extension to its Vulcan Road depot.

Steve Royal, from Konectbus, said his company had just invested £500,000 in three new buses on its number 5 route from Postwick Park and Ride to Norwich.

He said Konectbus had seen growth in Norwich. He said successes included the number 8 from Dereham to Norwich, which now has evening services, while passenger numbers were up on the Eaton service.

But he said rural routes were more of a challenge and said: "We are looking to further expand services where we can, but I will be honest, some of our services will be reduced or disappear as we seek to realign the business."

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