‘I will be honest, some of our services will be reduced or disappear’ - fears for future of rural buses

Buses in North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Buses in North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Rural bus services in Norfolk will not improve and some routes could be lost unless the government makes more money available to support them, bosses have warned.

Charles Sanders. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Charles Sanders. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

While First says the number of passengers using its buses in Norwich are increasing, bosses at Sanders Coaches and Konectbus have revealed the challenges facing more rural routes.

Charles Sanders, who runs Holt-based Sanders Coaches, said the rise of internet shopping means there is no longer the same demand for bus services from rural areas into Norwich that there once was.

And it means he is increasingly relying on the revenue from getting children in north Norfolk to school to subsidise the running of rural bus routes.

He said: "We have to adapt in the rural areas. We have made massive changes over the years.

Steve Royal, of Konectbus. Picture: Denise Bradley

Steve Royal, of Konectbus. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

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"The only way to keep rural transport going is to use revenue from taking children to school to run buses for the rest of the day.

"I cannot see how rural transport will get any better without further support. It is pretty marginal as it is. We do our absolute best to ensure what is there keeps going, but I cannot see any great improvement unless we get funding."

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Mr Sanders made his comments at a meeting of the Norfolk Bus Forum, held at The Forum in Norwich on Saturday.

While Norfolk County Council, subsidises some services through grants, government funding for that has reduced in recent years.

Steve Royal, operations manager for Konectbus, said, while they had seen growth in Norwich passenger numbers, there had been a decline on more rural routes and it had been "a challenging year".

He said: "We have had to make some difficult decisions and some services had to be reduced or taken away completely."

Mr Royal said there were successes, such as the number 8 from Dereham to Norwich, which now has evening services, while passenger numbers were up on the Eaton service.

He said £500,000 was being invested in three new, more environmentally-friendly buses, but Konectbus was having to rebalance the business.

He said: "We are looking to further expand services where we can, but I will be honest, some of our services will be reduced or disappear as we seek to realign the business."

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