First Buses explains reasons for recent changes to the 21/22 bus service in Norwich

First Buses has explained the reasons behind controversial changes to the 21/22 bus route in Norwich, amid further calls for the service to be reinstated.

Until last week, the 21/22 First service ran throughout the year from the UEA to the city centre via the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Bowthorpe and West Earlham. But First no longer has a direct link between the UEA and the hospital, and the 40 route now links the UEA with Bowthorpe and West Earlham at peak times, in term time only.

A spokesman for First said that in November it discussed a possible change to the service with officials from the UEA and the hospital, with neither party raising any immediate concerns.

The bus company said that extensive evaluation of the 21/22 service, including detailed analysis of ticketing machine data and on-street observations, was then undertaken and showed that very few passengers were being carried between the university and the hospital. Part of the service was therefore withdrawn due to a fall in passenger numbers.

Nigel Barrett, regional managing director, First South East and Midlands, said: 'We are aware that these alterations which came into effect on Monday may have inconvenienced some passengers, but I can assure you that the decision was not taken lightly and followed a full and thorough review of the affected services.'

Last week the Evening News reported that Green councillors had united with the Union of UEA Students to protest against the changes – attracting over 250 signatures to a petition.

Those calls have now been joined by city councillors Bert Bremner, pictured, Brenda Arthur and Sarah Grenville, who have issued a statement, under the guise of the 'University Ward Labour Team'. They are keen to point out that local residents are also being badly affected by the change.

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'The report in the Evening News about the 21 bus cuts is not just a student issue,' the statement says. 'The local people care, too, and 1,500 leaflets were delivered by the University ward Labour team to homes in the area.

'We told them about the student protest and that the students were calling for the reinstatement of the bus connection between the hospital, UEA, and Bluebell Road and that we totally agreed with them. We also told them that local residents who work over by the hospital are also complaining.'

The group said it has already received 50 replies complaining about the decision.

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