Big Norwich transport projects ditched

St Stephens Street in Norwich. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

St Stephens Street in Norwich. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

A £13.4m link for buses to get from the University of East Anglia to Norwich Research Park and a £5m plus car club expansion are among casualties of the government’s decision to pick other cities ahead of Norwich in sharing out more than £1bn.

First buses are ready to put £18.8m into the pot if the bid is successful. Picture: Edward Starr

First buses are ready to put £18.8m into the pot if the bid is successful. Picture: Edward Starr - Credit: Edward Starr Photographer

Norwich is among a dozen cities trying to get cash from the government’s Transforming Cities pot, with Transport for Norwich originally submitting a bid for projects to the tune of £75m, £90m or £162m.While council officers knew they were unlikely to get the top £162m figure, they believed they stood a good chance of securing £90m or £75m.

But the Department for Transport told the city it must fight it out for a share of £117m with Portsmouth and Stoke-on-Trent and asked the council to resubmit bids for £32m and £5m above and below that figure.

That bid was lodged and a decision is expected soon, but a number of schemes in the higher level package of the original bid had to be ditched - although council bosses have not ruled out finding alternative ways to make them a reality.

One big ticket discarded scheme is the Yare Valley Link, which would have meant a direct bus connection to serve the UEA, research park and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.Plans to expand car clubs and make vehicles all electric, which would have cost more than £5m, were also not included in the fresh bid. Nor was a £14.3m project to make all park and ride buses electric or low emission.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Archant

Possible new park and ride sites off the Northern Distributor Road at Norwich Airport and off Sprowston Road also had to be dropped from the resubmitted bid.

Schemes which survived the cull include £6.1m to make improvements at bus stops and for cyclists and pedestrians in St Stephens Street in Norwich, £1.7m for improvements in St Stephens Road, an £820,000 cycle and bus contraflow in Thorpe Road and Grapes Hill roundabout changes.

Also included is a £1m scheme in King Street, a £4m scheme to create a mobility hub for Bowthorpe and Costessey, a £2.7m expansion for Thickthorn Park and Ride and a £1.1m sustainable transport link at Norwich Airport industrial estate.

A £4.4m Heartsease roundabout redesign and a £1.7m bus interchange at the NNUH are in the submission, but, with officers asked to draw up low, medium and high bids, did not make the cut for the low bid.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. Pict

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. Picture: Simon Parkin - Credit: Simon Parkin

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Martin Wilby, chair of the Transforming Cities joint committee and cabinet member for highways and infrastructure at Norfolk County Council said: “Submitting our revised bid was a relatively straightforward process as our proposal was already split into three tiers, based on three separate funding scenarios.

“All schemes in our core package remain in the bid, as these are the key projects which will deliver the maximum benefit to the city in terms of improved access to walking, cycling and public transport.

“We are still confident we can secure a great settlement for Norwich, that will make a significant impact on reducing air pollution and represents one of the biggest investments in decades in the city’s sustainable transport infrastructure.

“All proposals in our higher funding packages still remain part of our long term vision for the city’s transport future and we will seek further funding for these schemes through all available means.

Thickthorn Park & Ride. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Thickthorn Park & Ride. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

“Through working closely with the Department for Transport and all stakeholders we are delighted that we have been able to retain commitment from First on a substantial investment in their services, should government investment be confirmed as hoped, which is great news for the city and all bus passengers in the longer term.”

First buses is ready to add £18.8m to a successful bid. With the county council prepared to spend up to £8m, it could mean the final pot comes to more than £60m.

Paul Martin, commercial manager at First Eastern Counties, said; “We have worked closely with Norfolk County Council throughout the entire process and are hopeful the city will be awarded the funding as submitted.

“As the main bus operator in the city, we fully support the improvements the council has outlined. We see our planned £18m investment playing an important role in improving services through the bus priority measures being introduced, with faster and more consistent journeys, improvements to frequencies and later journeys on key routes.

“By working in partnership, we can continue to make bus travel an attractive proposition, helping to reduce carbon emissions and improve the air quality in the city.”

The resubmiited bid will be discussed when the joint committee for Transforming Cities fund projects meets virtually on Tuesday.