Roads shake-up to make Norwich more bus-friendly may have slowed journey times

Castle Meadow in Norwich city centre, where many buses drop off and pick up. Photo: Antony Kelly

Castle Meadow in Norwich city centre, where many buses drop off and pick up. Photo: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

The head of operations at one of Norwich's biggest bus operators has said a shake-up to make the city more bus-friendly may have actually slowed its journey times.

Head of operations at Frist Chris Speed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Head of operations at Frist Chris Speed. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The Transport for Norwich strategy, a significant programme of work to improve Norwich roads for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users, has seen regeneration in areas including Westlegate, Tombland, Golden Ball Street and St Stephens Street among others.

Part of the work has focused on improving routes for buses, with several rapid bus transit routes and bus lanes created.

And it seems to have had an impact - in 2017, First buses said they had seen a 500,000 increase in passenger journeys in the previous 12 months, 75pc of which were in Norwich.

But Chris Speed, head of operations at First, said the shake-up may have had a negative impact on journey times.

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Mr Speed said: 'The city council has done a lot of work making the centre of the city car free and bus friendly, which is a big advantage for us.

'But of course congestion is just building up around the whole city area, which ends up slowing our journeys down overall.'

He said, as an example, it meant that while a bus would save time driving through a quieter city centre, overall, it would lose time because of the extra congestion getting into the centre.

He said they were monitoring congestion on the network, but that introducing new services to make up for lost time cost money - which would eventually be felt by the customer.

A spokesperson for Transport for Norwich said the projects included schemes to improve the network for all modes of transport.

'Changes to St Stephens Street and Chapel Field North were specifically designed to improve bus journey times and reliability, while recent work to the Dereham Road/Sweet Briar Road roundabout, which is used by several major bus routes, has dramatically improved traffic flow in the area and relieved congestion on the approaching roads,' they said.

'Improvement schemes rely on the availability of suitable funding and the city and county councils are committed to source more money that can be invested in making further improvements for public transport.'

They said a recent bid to the Department for Transport's Transforming Cities Fund, which targets public transport routes, would be a 'huge boost' for local bus services.

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