Number of Norfolk bus passengers drops by several million within three years

Hunstanton bus station, which could be redeveloped. Pictrure: Chris Bishop

Hunstanton bus station, which could be redeveloped. Pictrure: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

Millions fewer journeys are being made on Norfolk buses, with figures showing a near 10pc drop in passenger numbers within three years.

The King's Lynn Bus Station. Picture: Ian Burt

The King's Lynn Bus Station. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

According to figures released by the BBC, with data sourced from the Department for Transport, in 2013/14 passenger numbers in Norfolk were around 29.4m - which equated to 33.8 journeys per head of population.

But figures from 2016/17 show a 9.8pc drop in passenger numbers, decreasing to its lowest point at 27.3m - around 30.5 journeys per person.

The numbers have steadily decreased over time, with 28.8m passenger journeys in 2014/15 and 27.8m in 2015/16.

Bus companies say congestion on our roads and roadworks have led to fewer people opting to travel by bus.

A Stagecoach Coasthopper bus. Picture: Ian Burt

A Stagecoach Coasthopper bus. Picture: Ian Burt

A spokesman from Lynx bus said: 'Apparently we are bucking the trend as we have seen some growth on most of our services, but the main thing that affects us is worsening congestion and constant disruption caused by roadworks.'

Charles Sanders, of Holt-based Sanders Coaches, agreed that congestion played a part in bus passenger numbers but said he found the declining figures surprising. He added: 'I think it is something bus companies need to focus on and work at, to get more and more people to use buses. 'It is a cheaper form of transport - we run in a rural area and the people we carry rely on us as much as we rely on them.'

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Steve Wickers, managing director for First Eastern Counties, said: 'There has been a steady decline in people using public transport across the UK for several years now, but in eastern counties we have managed to reverse that decline and over the last 12 months have experienced around 4pc growth in people using our buses.'

Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach East, said: 'We have been highlighting the issue of increased traffic congestion and its effect on bus journey times and patronage for a while.

'We are operating the same resources in terms of buses and drivers - but are covering less mileage within our cities because of longer journey times resulting from the increased congestion.'

David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said its research shows passengers want a frequent, punctual and reliable service that offers value for money.

But he said a quarter of passengers' journeys were held up by congestion and local authority spending cuts mean some subsidised bus routes are disappearing.

Mr Sidebottom added: 'Nearly nine out of ten passengers are satisfied with their bus service.

'However, young people, the customers of the future, are the least satisfied group of bus passengers.

'Operators should seize the opportunity and introduce schemes that encourage younger passengers to take more trips, offering cheaper fares, free wi-fi, charging points and mobile ticketing.

'Both the government, local transport authorities and operators need to come together to deal with these challenges.'

In Suffolk, passenger numbers dropped by 4.6pc since 2013/14 - 17.4m passenger journeys were made compared to 16.8m last year, a drop of more than half a million.

A National Express coach at Norwich Bus Station. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

A National Express coach at Norwich Bus Station. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

The trend was also seen in Cambridgeshire, where the county experienced a 12pc drop in the number of bus passengers. Numbers remained at 22m between 2013 and 2015 but dropped to 20m by 2017.

Nationally, bus passenger numbers have increased slightly by 0.7pc and it still remains the most popular form of public transport, with 5pc of all trips in England being made by bus.

But more than half of journeys, around 65pc, are made by car and 25pc are made by foot, while cycling and train journeys only account for 2pc of trips.

The number of miles clocked up each year by buses in the UK has hit its lowest point since 1991. Just in the last 10 years, the country's bus network shrunk by 8pc with 134m fewer miles driven by buses each year.

This downward trend is replicated in Norfolk, where buses travelled fewer million miles in 2016/17 compared to 2013/14.

Three years ago the bus service covered 19.63 miles, which decreased to 18.41 miles last year. This 6.2pc drop amounts to 1.22m miles - the equivalent of 48 journeys around the world.

What do you think?

Judy Connolly, 74, from West Lynn, said: 'Buses from where I am go about every hour but they used to come every 20mins once upon a time.

'I used to get the bus when I did my shopping, so in case I missed one bus I wouldn't hang about waiting for the next, but now I travel by car.'

Margaret Reeve, 80, from West Lynn, said: 'I use the bus now and again but I have my own car - it is more convenient and the bus doesn't always go where I need to be.

'The only reason I come on the bus is to use my free bus pass.'

Jake Clay, 21, from New Parks in Leicester, said buses in Norfolk are more expensive compared to his home county, adding: 'I noticed this morning on the bus there weren't that many people on.

'I think less people use the bus because prices have gone up.'

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