All change for Norwich bus services as First reveals a timetable overhaul

The number 25 First bus at Castle Meadow, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The number 25 First bus at Castle Meadow, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

First Norwich bus group has revealed it is giving its network timetable an overhaul this month.

First bus in Norwich city centre. Photo: Steve Adams

First bus in Norwich city centre. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Reacting to the city's new traffic network under the Transport for Norwich scheme, changes will be made to every one of the coloured lines intersecting the city, with a number of more frequent services.

But other areas will see a reduced service, in some cases as pavement parking has made access for buses too difficult.

Many departure times will become 'clock faced' – on the hour or at 15 minute intervals – to make times easier to remember, and around two dozen of the fleet are getting an upgrade to leather seating and wifi.

David Jordan, marketing manager for First Norfolk and Suffolk, said the changes were the result of months of research into customer patterns and road changes.

The Red Line bus. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Red Line bus. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

'This is based on data gathered in terms of passenger numbers and running times – we can tell how many people get on at particular stops and where buses stop in traffic,' he said.

The changes, due to come into force on September 25, will be part of a 're-brand' for Network Norwich.

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'We have noticed changing traffic flows so parts of the city that did not use to be a problem are more challenging,' said Mr Jordan.

'We are very lucky in Norwich to have a hub and spoke transport system and key corridors. We will end up with 70pc of buses dedicated to each route with coloured fronts, so people will stop and notice when their bus arrives. People trust a fixed transit system like trams or trains. With buses there is not that safety net, and a bus can go anywhere it wants so is seen as less reliable. This is about removing that uncertainty and trying to say these are fixed routes.'

With 94pc of services currently running on time, the aim is to increase that to 95pc, and increase passenger numbers by eight pc from the one million carried every month.

Chris Speed, general manager of First Norwich, said the aim is to 'carry more passengers to more places'.

'This is investment to grow our passenger numbers and get more people travelling,' he said.

'In Norwich in the last 18 months we have invested £250,000 into refurbishing the buses.

'We have to shed the image of a bus being a dirty old thing that bangs around the corners. There is a generation gap that believes the bus isn't a nice way to travel.

'The main thing is about the journey time. In the past buses used to go around houses here there and everywhere, but when the journey time is something comparable with a car, people start to change their travel.'

Yellow line

The biggest change in the timetable will be for passengers in Taverham and Drayton using the Yellow Line who will see the route change dramatically.

'The service to Taverham over a number of years has got to the stage where it does not provide the level or frequency of service people would expect for a village as big as Taverham,' said marketing manager David Jordan.

'The 29 route currently is so confusing nobody knows where it is going to go, and takes people on a really protracted, drawn-out route to the city centre.'

Rather than circumventing Taverham, buses will now run directly from Fakenham Road to the city centre every 15 minutes.

Buses will also serve more of the popular parts of the city centre: travelling in from Mile Cross roundabout via Drayton Road calling at Anglia Square, Tombland, Castle Meadow and ending at St Stephens Street.

There will be daytime 'door-to-door' buses on route 28 into Thorpe Marriott up to every 30 minutes (up to every 15 minutes in the morning peak), Monday to Saturday. They will travel from Fakenham Road via Kingswood Avenue and Pendlesham Rise both into and out of the city, then using the existing one-way loop around Long Dale and Drewray Drive.

Running more daytime buses on a new route 29 which will provide a 'door-to-door' service into Taverham up to every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday, with a new one-way loop to serve as much of the village as possible.

Apart from some early morning journeys out of the city and afternoon journeys back, numbered 28A, Yellow Line will no longer travel along Heigham Street, which will now be served by a new daytime service 30.

'We want to improve our offering to passengers in a frequent and direct service into the city,' added Mr Jordan. 'That's the underlying principle. Thorpe Marriott now gets a bus every 20 minutes, but we have removed that enormous one-way loop that is not attractive to people.

'The majority of passenger data shows they will walk to the main road to get the bus. What we are hoping is to make that corridor as reliable as possible.

'There will be two buses every hour going to Thorpe Marriott. If you live at the back of the village where it is not viable to walk to the main road you get a service every 30 minutes rather than 20 minutes. That decision is based on the fact people will take reliability over frequency.

'Wherever you live in Taverham you will be within a five or 10 minute walk of a bus stop and a regular bus service.'

Pink line

Connecting up bus routes to new housing developments has to be a priority to get infrastructure in place ahead of demand.

Changes to the Pink Line will see nine new buses to give a more frequent service but longer journey times to negotiate traffic, as well as linking up the new Beeston Park development.

'We have worked closely with the developer and aim to put buses on every 20 minutes,' said marketing manager David Jordan. 'It is being done exactly how it should be and the buses are going in first.'

A new timetable across the day on the 11 and 12 services aims to run more reliably when demand for the service becomes heavy, especially between Wroxham and Sprowston.

Sunday services will run more often with buses up to every 30 minutes during the day between Sprowston and the hospital.

'We are increasing frequency and there will be a service every 10 minutes across the day Monday to Friday and we have increased the number of buses on that service with the nine brand new Pink Line buses launched in April,' added Mr Jordan. 'That is in response to the fact that key corridor to the hospital is getting busier.'

In Round House Park, due to continued problems with parked cars affecting the reliability of some journeys, buses will no longer be serving Dragonfly Lane but will travel via The Pines.

What do you think of the changes? Email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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