Last bus runs on axed free service to Tesco as bid to save the route fails

Campaigners fighting to retain the free bus provided by Tesco at the Blue Boar Lane store in Sprowst

Campaigners fighting to retain the free bus provided by Tesco at the Blue Boar Lane store in Sprowston. Left to right: Emyr Riddock, Cathy Clayburn, Ann George and Natasha Harpley. Pic: Danny Douglas. - Credit: Danny Douglas

Tesco has left its customers out in the cold by 'knowingly losing business' in axing a free bus service to a store in Norwich.

The final bus ran to the Blue Boar Lane superstore on Friday and an attempt to get a stay of execution for the service failed in the 11th hour.

Tesco decided to stop paying Konectbus to run the T1 and T2 free bus services to the store at Sprowston, which sparked anger from people who use the buses, which take shoppers from Thorpe St Andrew, Heartsease, Catton and Hellesdon to the store from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Labour activist Natasha Harpley handed a petition to store management on Friday asking the company to reconsider the plan, but said 'their minds have been made up'.

'We had asked for a stay of execution for them to look at any other options for a compromise,' she said. 'Essentially it is a no go from them. Their reasoning is their contract for buses are procured by a third party and everything to do with transport has to go through them. 'Even though Konect have offered twice to run the service cheaper they can't do it because they have to go through the third party. 'I can see they have to make savings but it was suggested the service could be squeezed down. There are plenty of people who use the service, and are willing to pay for it. 'The impression I got was their minds have been made up. The service had been running around 10 years now and the transport links in Thorpe and Sprowston aren't great. For older people and people with reduced mobility the timing of this just before Christmas is awful.

'Tesco has told me when they decided to do this they had to look at areas where people are picked up from and make sure they could still get to a supermarket, even if its not them.

'This is the first time in their history they have knowingly made a decision that will lose them business, and it is happening in 30 stores.'

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Natasha is now contacting Norfolk County Council to explore community-funded options for the transport service.

Jessica Walker, Tesco's regional communications manager for the East of England, said it had been a 'difficult decision' to stop the services.

She said: 'We regret that we have not been able to make this service work and would like to apologise to customers who enjoyed using it.

'We are working with affected customers to help them find alternative provision so they can continue to access the store.

'There are other local bus services that will provide an alternative for the route, including the 11 and 12 bus which mirrors the T1 route.'