Millions fewer using buses in Norfolk and Suffolk with companies blaming weather, retail decline and cheap parking

Bus passenger numbers in Norfolk and Suffolk continue to decline. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Bus passenger numbers in Norfolk and Suffolk continue to decline. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The number of people using bus services in Norfolk and Suffolk continues to fall, with latest figures showing millions of passengers choosing not to travel by bus.

According to figures released by the Department for Transport, around 27.6m journeys were made on Norfolk buses in 2017/18 - compared to 27.7m the year before.

But bus companies in the region blamed extreme weather, retail decline, cheap parking charges and congestion for the decline in passenger numbers.

A spokesman from Konectbus said: 'Buses in Norfolk have bucked the national trend with only a small decline in 2017-18 which was wholly a consequence of the dreadful weather conditions caused by the Beast from the East.

'Buses all over the UK face a tough time from increased peak time congestion as employment grows, from cheaper fuel and parking make car costs more competitive, and from the decline of local high streets which have been a key market for bus services.

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The figures show bus use has declined by 6pc compared to four years ago in 2013/14, which saw around 29.4m journeys made within a year.

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

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The biggest change in passenger numbers was seen in Suffolk, where the county saw a startling 17pc decrease of journeys made in the year ending March 2018 compared to 2013/14 - from 17.9m to 14.9m.

This equated to a 20pc drop in the number of journeys per head of population, from 24.4 to 19.6 within four years. A spokesman from First Eastern Counties said the statistics were concerning, but added: 'There are obviously other local contributory factors that need to be considered that may have influenced confidence in local bus services over the last five years, such as the job market, retail decline, cheap parking charges, and congestion, all of which can have a negative effect on how people choose to move around the city and county.

'However, with a positive approach, we will continue grow our business and deliver bus services where there is demand. It is quite simple really, the more people that use the service the better it will be.'

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