Bus disruption as £6.1m St Stephens revamp begins in January
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
A £6.1m overhaul of a major city centre street is to begin in January next year causing changes to bus services for months in the city.
St Stephens Street will undergo a transformation which could take as long as eight months as part of the Transforming Cities Fund improvements in Norwich.
The multi-million pound shake-up will see new sawtooth bus bays created which councillors say will make it easier for buses to pick up and drop off passengers.
More space will be created for shoppers and those waiting to board buses, with new bus stops, seating and landscaping enhancing the area.
Pedestrian links between Norwich Bus Station and the city centre along Queens Road will also be improved following the pavement widening already completed in Surrey Street.
The improvement work being undertaken as part of the £32m Transforming Cities Fund which was awarded to Norwich in September 2020 and has been issued for a number of projects across Norwich.
Councillor Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport said: “As a busy area for retail, key transport hub and gateway to the city centre, improvements to St Stephens Street are long overdue.
"Bus waiting areas can easily become crowded, which restricts pedestrian movements and increasing levels of living accommodation in this area of the city means this problem will only get worse in the longer term.
"Bus delays caused by the current street layout on St Stephens Street impacts passengers, bus operators and contributes to city centre pollution levels.
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"Every effort will be made to keep disruption to a minimum and complete the project as quickly as possible. We thank local businesses and the public for their patience while works are carried out."
The work begins on January 8 and is expected to continue until autumn, requiring bus services to serve alternative bus stops in the city.
Buses that normally serve St Stephens Street will instead serve Red lion Street, Rampant Horse Street, Castle Meadow and Norwich Bus Station.
Pedestrian access to the many shops in the high street will remain throughout the works.
Bus passengers are advised to check with operators for any alterations to timings.
Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties said: “We along with other bus operators, are working in partnership with Norfolk County Council to deliver significant improvements for bus passengers through a variety of projects funded through the Transforming Cities programme.
"We are already seeing real benefits for passengers in terms of journey time savings in the changes delivered so far and the improvements to St Stephens Street will further build on this, allowing drivers to more easily access stops, creating quicker and smoother transitions that will reduce delays and create a nicer environment for waiting passengers.
"Operators have been working very closely with Norfolk County Council to minimise the effect on passengers whilst the scheme is delivered, and to help reduce the overall construction time, we have all agreed to suspend the stops on St Stephens Street while works are carried out but all other stops in the city centre will be available throughout.”
But the St Stephens improvement plans have not been without controversy.
Cyclists fear the changes will make the street too dangerous for cycling in.
Norwich Cycling Campaign said the alignment of those bays could mean a bus driver might not spot a cyclist when pulling out - and said when they raised those concerns during a safety audit, they were dismissed.
In response, Norfolk County Council said that proposals for the scheme centred around improvements for pedestrians and bus users but "safety will always remain a top priority and should not be to the detriment of cyclists".