Concerned users of a popular rural bus route got to question the government’s transport minister yesterday.

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Norman Baker heard the issues at the Constantia Cottage Restaurant at East Runton, near Cromer, before catching the 12.30pm Coasthopper from the High Street to Blakeney with regular commuters.

Funding cuts and a drop in government fuel tax subsidies last year forced Norfolk Green to impose fare increases and cut some journeys on the route, which operates on the coast road between King’s Lynn and Cromer.

Mr Baker, a Liberal Democrat, said: “We very much value rural bus services which are a lifeline for rural communities.”

He added he had been lobbying the government in order to protect the bus services and said: “We have to look at things in a more creative way... The Coasthopper is very well supported by my Liberal Democrat colleagues. It is clearly a very important link for communities and the economy.”

Mr Baker said the Coasthopper was one of the fastest growing bus services.

As well as the transport minister, north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb sat in during the question and answer session and travelled on the bus.

Mr Baker said the government would be introducing a new grant to cover concessionary fares, which would take into account rural factors as well as the average age of an area.

From April this year the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, formerly known as the Fuel Duty Rebate, will become available through the government.

Mr Baker added £1m would be given to Norfolk County Council for community transport and he was keen for bus services and social bus services to link up.

He was also keen on encouraging areas to offer “multi-operational tickets” for different routes.

Mr Baker did not want to impact on the competition between different bus companies in Norfolk.

Marie Strong, county councillor for Wells, told bus users and Mr Baker: “Norfolk is a rural county and rural isolation is all too easily identified within our parishes.

“A key factor in offsetting rural isolation is good public transport – and this is a costly exercise made even more costly for this county because of its beauty.”

She added: “A beautiful county attracts visitors – visitors are welcome, they are vital to Norfolk’s economy.

“But a high percentage of these visitors use their concessionary bus passes – passes which are not refunded by the government to the extent originally intended.”

Dr Strong said the Coasthopper was not just a “holiday bus” but was used by people every day.

“These are the ways in which people can avoid, and help others avoid, rural isolation.

“These are the reasons why we need the full subsidy to support all our rural public transport,” she added.

At the end of last year, Charles Sanders, owner of Holt-based Sanders Coaches, accused rival company Konectbus of having no interest in providing public transport links to isolated villages.

He said his own x44 and 44 services from Sheringham to Cromer to Norwich via Aylsham helped subsidise his loss-making rural routes.

Konectbus, owned by national transport company Go-Ahead Group, launched its konectexpress 2 service from Sheringham and Cromer to Norwich in November, which was the company’s first route in north Norfolk.

At the time Julian Patterson, operations and commercial director at Konectbus said it had identified a route where the business could offer something a bit different.

5 comments

  • Can this be the same fellow who was trying to defend the above-inflation rail fare increases that clobbered hundreds of thousands of commuters only a matter of weeks ago? Or maybe he's the chappie who asked if he could claim for a computer to (in his own words) listen to and download music and games, to be able to email my family and friends, and similar domestic purposes, while at the same time "campaigning" for greater disclosure of MP's expenses? It's that confusing dichotomy again Jono...he also claimed for hundreds of pounds of food at his flat in London under the Additional Costs Allowance while MPs were on holiday. The porker!

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    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • Once again these MPs are trying to live two different lifestyles. They support cutting bus subsidies in Westminster but when the cuts are on their own backyard they're quick to express "concern" about it. Did Mr Baker get a chance to look at the other bus services that are being cut in north Norfolk that show the full extent of rural isolation? This is going to carry on, and I bet Norman Lamb won't be fighting to save them.

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    Jono

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • Don't remember Mr Lamb ever doing anything to help keep the number 9 service on a Sunday, leaving several communities cut off, eg BristonMelton Constable... Not quite such a glam route to show his friend, perhaps.

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    Callum Ringer

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • In-trouble promise-breaking Lambo in desperate bid to reconnect with disillusioned locals. That should be the headline.

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    Police Commissioner ???

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • it must be election time ! two mentions that they are lib dems and three quotes from lib dems ! the bus journey even started at their candidate's business !

    Report this comment

    Double Bill

    Friday, January 25, 2013

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