Bid for millions of pounds to transform Norwich bus services - plus St Stephens Street through the ages
Millions of pounds are being sought to make it easier for buses to get around Norwich, as part of a package which would see St Stephens Street closed to general traffic.
Bosses at Norfolk County Council have warned that the city's under strain transport network is chocked full to capacity, with severe congestion on some routes.
With the support of bus operators, the county council has asked for �2.6m from a pot of money called the Better Bus Area Fund.
If successful, more money will be added by councils, bus companies and businesses to build up a �2.9m package of improvements.
Among the biggest changes, general traffic would be removed from St Stephens Street and Surrey Street, so only buses, coaches, taxis and cyclists can use those streets.
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The goal of those changes is to speed up journey times for buses travelling through the city centre, with the package also proposing a southbound bus lane in Grapes Hill.
Other proposals are for traffic signals giving buses priority to be installed at more than 160 places in Norwich, 10 new bus shelters in Dereham Road and Newmarket Road, more than 20 real-time bus departure screens and the introduction of reduced nus fares for 16 to 19-year-olds.
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In the report which has been submitted to the government, council officers state: 'Our transport system is under strain and the pressure will increase over time.
'Without action, the transport system will be a barrier to realising the economic growth potential of the city.
'The transport network is at capacity, with severe congestion on some routes, including key bus routes into the city centre, creating increased journey times, increasing pressure on bus operating costs and leading to unreliable journey times.
'Furthermore, the public transport capacity within the city centre is also at capacity, with a lack of space for expansion of bus movements and bus stops.'
The report adds that almost a quarter of city businesses have told the council that poor public transport is the main weakness of their business location, with traffic forming a barrier between prime retail areas.
Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council said the bid was linked with the improvements, such as rapid buses, which are part of the Norwich Area Transport Strategy, linked to the northern bypass plans.
He said: 'If it all comes together, then we are looking at a very good scheme. If people don't get held up on buses and there's a reliable timetable, then you are more likely to get people to use the buses.'
The bid was submitted last month and a decision is expected by the end of this month.
Bus operators, including First, Anglian Buses, Sanders Coaches and Konectbus have backed the bid, along with new train operator Greater Anglia.
Colin Booth, general manager for First buses in Norfolk, said: 'St Stephens is a bit of a problem at the moment because you get cars queuing to go into car parks and at the roundabout at the end of St Stephens.
'It doesn't take much for it all to get jammed up so if this gets the go-ahead then that will make a big difference to the actual running of the city.
'Things like traffic light priorities, which sounds a small thing but is actually a massive help. That's improved our 28/29 service dramatically up at the boundary because we've got priority on the lights.
'If we could get that introduced the whole way around the city then that would make a massive improvement to a bus journey.'
The Evening News reported last year how a separate bid for Local Sustainable Transport Fund money has been lodged which would see Chapel Field North two-way and new bus stops in Theatre Street and Red Lion Street,
Another part of that plan would be for cars travelling down Westlegate to be stopped from carrying on into Rampant Horse Street, but instead forced right into Red Lion Street.
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