First insists it will listen to concerns about buses in Old Catton

PUBLISHED: 06:30 02 November 2012

Chloe Smith MP with the bus petition and residents in Old Catton.  Photo: Bill Smith

Chloe Smith MP with the bus petition and residents in Old Catton. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

First Buses has promised to look again at its journeys through Old Catton after villagers made a impassioned plea for the return of an hourly service last night.

Representatives from the operator were hit with a barrage of questions, angry statements and anecdotes of hardship as they discussed the decision to cancel its No 10 service along Spixworth Road during a public meeting. All journeys now run along the North Walsham Road instead.

The change has left people in the area relying on an infrequent service, run by Sanders Coaches, or walking a considerable distance to pick up a service elsewhere.

But after a number of heated exchanges at last night’s meeting, called by Old Catton Parish Council, First promised it would consider the evidence again. Steve Wickers, representing First Buses, said: “I wouldn’t be here tonight if I wasn’t going to take the feedback seriously. We will look at the services again and see what we potentially could do.”

At the start of the meeting, Mr Wickers explained to the packed room that the decision to cancel the No 10 bus was based on usage.

He said monitoring of tickets and people had shown “very low demand for the pick-up on Spixworth Road”. But during the meeting he also admitted the type of passenger using the service – which includes a large number with bus passes on the Spixworth Road route – played a part because of the revenues they brought in.

Villagers argued demand was high and buses were now so frequent along the North Walsham Road many were running empty.

One resident, aged 91, told Mr Wickers: “The nearest bus stop for us is Constitution Hill, by the vets. That’s half a mile. That’s no good for the old folks. I think we deserve to have our No 10 back.”

Speaking on behalf of villagers, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith urged First to look again at its data and also take into account the anecdotal evidence.

The meeting also heard a statement from Sanders which said it would be willing to increase its service to the area but would not be able to do so until at least Easter.

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