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Delight as bid for super-fast bus routes in Norwich shortlisted for share of £840m government cash

PUBLISHED: 17:05 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:55 28 September 2018

Super-fast bus routes could speed up travel by public transport in Greater Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Super-fast bus routes could speed up travel by public transport in Greater Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Three super-fast bus routes, cleaner buses and smart ticketing could be on the way to Norwich after the city was shortlisted to get a share of £840m of government cash.

Martin Wilby, from Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMartin Wilby, from Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Greater Norwich has been named as one of 10 cities which will go head to head for what would be a huge funding boost and transform how people get around.

At the heart of Transport for Norwich’s bid are three key bus routes, which would connect Norwich International Airport to Broadland Business Park, Wymondham to Sprowston and Easton to Rackheath.

Smart ticketing, cleaner vehicles, real-time information and faster journey times would all be made possible if the government stumps up the cash.

Council bosses say it would enable bus operators to provide zero-emission buses, more evening buses and buses every eight minutes during the day on the three strategic routes.

Map showing where new transport hubs could be added to Norwich bus routes, Picture: Transport for NorwichMap showing where new transport hubs could be added to Norwich bus routes, Picture: Transport for Norwich

Now Greater Norwich is on the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund shortlist, it will get £50,000 and support from government officers to develop the next stage of the bid.

Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, said: “Greater Norwich is ready for significant investment in public transport so it’s fantastic news that we’ve been shortlisted.

“Funding through Transforming Cities would help us deliver the integrated network we need to support growth in homes, jobs and the local economy over the coming years.”
The application was put together in partnership with Norfolk, Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk councils.

It was backed by a string of organisations, including the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Greater Anglia, First buses, Konectbus, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Norwich Business Improvement District.

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for transport, said: “Investment in public transport is vital to support Greater Norwich as it grows.

“This is a great opportunity to work with our local authority partners and the DfT to put together plans that could make a significant difference to the quality of major bus routes into the city.

“Building on recent investment in the pedalways we can also look forward to an even better sustainable transport network for Norwich.”

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said: “This is a massive boost for the area and local economy. The funding has the potential to greatly increase access to jobs, reduce congestion and improve our air quality.

“It will enable us to improve public transport links to our key employment sites around Norwich, such as the Norwich Research Park, the University of East Anglia and the hospital, and provide better integration of the tech corridor with the city transport network, giving local people much greater access to employment opportunities.”

Shaun Vincent, leader of Broadland Council, added: “This opportunity is another step in the right direction to drive economic success in the Greater Norwich area and match the demands of the business community.

“Economic growth is our priority and the potential for improved connectivity through this funding can only support this.”

The potential boost has been welcomed by business leaders. Nova Fairbank, from the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The shortlisting of Norwich for the Transforming Cities Fund shows that the government is taking our city’s economic potential seriously.

“Further funding will deliver greater transport integration and help businesses driver greater economic growth and jobs for Norfolk.”

Greater Norwich is up against local authorities in Derby and Nottingham, Leicester, the north east, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire for a share of the £840m pot.

Challenges

The bid sets out a number of challenges the city currently faces, supporting the need for transformation.

In the application, it is argued buses have insufficient priority over cars, making it quicker to travel by car - despite drivers reportedly wasting 26 hours a year in peak hour congestion.

The application also says currently no buses serve the centre of the Broadland Growth Triangle, where there are 13,500 homes.

It also says: “Norwich Research Park is Europe’s largest site for research in food, health and life sciences, hosting over 80 businesses and 12,000 employees, but poor connections to train and bus services hamper growth and cause congestion.”

The application also identifies Norwich as the 18th most congested of the United Kingdom’s 111 large UK urban areas.

What is the Transforming Cities Fund?

The Transforming Cities Fund was unveiled in the March 2018 budget, making £1.7bn available to cities looking to promote intra-city connectivity.

Half of this has already been allocated to the country’s six mayoral combined authorities - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, West of England, West Midlands and Tees Valley.

The remaining £840m has been made available for cities to submit bids for, of which Norwich is one.

Final decisions on the funding amounts will only be made once the quality of all successful applications has been assessed.

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