‘Vital’ hospital bus route under threat from council budget cuts

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell. Picture: DEREHAM TOWN COUNCIL

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell. Picture: DEREHAM TOWN COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

Concerns have raised by mid Norfolk residents about a county council consultation that could see cuts being made to rural bus services.

NCC is carrying out a review into its spending to plug a £125m gap.

The council subsidy given to bus services and community transport could be reduced by £500,000.

One route at risk of being cut is the Konect Bus No 4 service, from Swanton Morley to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), via Dereham, Yaxham and Mattishall.

The Yaxham Neighbourhood Plan (YNP) group has urged residents to respond to the NCC bus consultation, which is running until January 2, 2018.

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The group said the No 4 service is: 'a lifeline for those without cars, or who do not to drive to get to the NNUH and the city centre'.

They added: 'The service is limited enough as it is without it being reduced further.'

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Treasurer of the YNP working group, Susan Martin, said: 'The No 4 service starts in Swanton Morley and goes through all the villages, so you can imagine the number of people who rely on it.

'A lot of the elderly people are at a stage where they can't drive.

'Rural isolation is something we all worry about.'

Mrs Martin added: 'In Yaxham we don't have a doctors' surgery, and we only have a tiny farm shop.

'These elderly people are going to end up being completely isolated. It's a really vital service.'

Konect Bus managing director, Jeremy Cooper, said: 'Route 4 is largely a commercial service. Even if NCC completely cut its subsidy we would continue to provide the Monday to Saturday operation between Dereham and Norwich and those who use that part of our operation should rest assured.

'However, the Swanton Morley section of route and the Sunday timetable is less well used and we would encourage our customers to outline the value of those services through the consultation process.'

Dereham mayor, councillor Hilary Bushell, said: 'The No 4 is a crucial service for the town. It's our only link with the hospital.

'So many people use it, especially in the mornings and to get to work.

'Its important people do register their thoughts with NCC.'

A spokesperson for Mattishall parish council said: 'The buses are only one an hour as it is, and they are used by people of all ages.'

A spokesperson for NCC said: 'We would encourage residents to get in touch with us to let us know their views on the proposals to review the amount of money we spend on bus subsidies and community transport grants.

'The consultation runs until 2 January and people can have their say online.'

'Customers without internet access can contact NCC's customer service centre (0344 800 8020, open Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm) for a paper copy, or visit their local library who can print one off for them.

'Konect will be putting up notices about the consultation on the bus services that we added on 21 November. We want to make sure that people who could potentially be affected are aware of the consultation.'

To view the consultation, visit the NCC website.

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