Norwich could get 50 new buses if bid for transport cash millions succeeds

PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:20 15 January 2020

First could invest in more than 50 new buses if a multi-million pound bid for government cash succeeds. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

First could invest in more than 50 new buses if a multi-million pound bid for government cash succeeds. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY


A successful bid for millions of pounds of government cash could trigger an £18m investment in more than 50 new buses and almost 70 refurbished vehicles in and around Norwich.

A concept drawing of how a mobility hub could work. Pic: Norfolk County Council.A concept drawing of how a mobility hub could work. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

As further details were released about Norfolk County Council's submission for up to £170m from the government's Transforming Cities pot, First bosses have detailed what they would be prepared to invest in its fleet should the bid, which would pay for extra bus lanes and bus stops, be successful.

Norwich is one of a dozen cities which bid for a share of the £1.2bn fund and for some of a separate £90m Future Mobility Fund to cut single occupancy car use.

Council leaders say a successful bid would boost Norfolk's economy by more than £100m a year.

The government is due to announce how much cities will get in March and bosses at First have revealed what they would spend if the council's bid secures millions of pounds.

Castle Meadow could be set for a multi-million pound revamp. Picture: ANTONY KELLYCastle Meadow could be set for a multi-million pound revamp. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

MORE: Revealed: The multi-million pound projects which could transform transport in Norwich

Giles Fearnley, First's managing director, said £18m would be invested, including 55 new buses along four routes - the blue line from the city centre to the University of East Anglia, the pink line from Sprowston to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the red line from Easton to Rackheath and the purple line to and from Norwich Airport.

Those buses would be more environmentally friendly, Euro VI vehicles.

And a further 67 refurbished or newer vehicles would be brought in on other routes. It would mean First could remove all the older Euro III and Euro IV vehicles from its Norwich fleet.

Giles Fearnley, managing director of First Buses. Photo: Steve AdamsGiles Fearnley, managing director of First Buses. Photo: Steve Adams

All buses would have audio and visual announcements of the next stops, with USB charging points.

Mr Fearnley said if extra money, such as from the Green Bus Fund, can be obtained, there was even the possibility of electric buses on blue and pink lines.

He said, in a letter of support backing the council's bid to the Department for Transport: "The fact that such a large proportion of the bid is supporting bus measures is very much welcomed and is the main reason for the level of investment detailed."

Konectbus is also keen to provide extra services into the evenings, while the bid has support from organisations including Sanders Coaches, Greater Anglia, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the University of East Anglia, Norwich Airport and Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. Picture: Simon ParkinMartin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. Picture: Simon Parkin

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure at Norfolk County Council, said: "This funding bid has the potential to deliver investment in sustainable transport infrastructure on an unprecedented scale, transforming how people travel around Norwich, boost the local economy and deliver real benefit in terms of health, employment and the environment for years to come.

"The level of support shown for our proposals is testament to the partnership approach that has got us to this point and the commitment to invest shown by bus operators is a clear indication of confidence in our joint approach to delivery."

The council's bid included three programmes - for £167m, for £99.5m and for £83.9m. Council officers took a pragmatic approach to try to provide deliverable schemes, so hope to get at least £83.9m.

Chris Starkie, managing director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. Picture: Angela SharpeChris Starkie, managing director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. Picture: Angela Sharpe

What are some of the proposals?

- An £8.2m revamp for St Stephens Street and Castle Meadow, changing kerb lines to make it easier for buses to pick up and drop off passengers.

- More than £2m to extend the bus lane on Wroxham Road and improve paths and £1.4m for new bus lanes in Sprowston Road.

- £3.1m to improve Norwich's Foundry bridge junction, potentially banning general traffic from Thorpe Road between Riverside Road and Lower Clarence Road.

- More than 30 new 'mobility hubs' - where people would head to use various sorts of public transport.

- Just over £2m for a new public transport, pedestrian and cycling route between Norwich Airport and the airport industrial estate.

- More than £4m to improve Magdalen Street, with better pedestrian crossings, wider pavements and better bus stops.

- £13.3m to provide a new transport link across the Yare Valley, to create a connection for buses, pedestrians and cyclists from the University of East Anglia to the Norwich Research Park

- Just over £1.1m for better access at Wymondham railway station.

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- Almost £1m to increase Norfolk Car Club spaces in Norwich city centre.

What do people say?

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties, said: " These are exciting times ahead for the region's public transport.

"First Eastern Counties has been working closely with Norfolk County Council on many opportunities that could transform the attractiveness of public transport in the region.

"We have already made great strides in expanding our bus network, upgrading our fleet of buses and improving how customers pay for their travel with the introduction of contactless and mTicket payments which have been very successful and are now responsible for over 60pc of all transactions on bus and we will look to build on this further should government funding be awarded."

Stefan Gurney, executive director of The Norwich Business Improvement District said: "We see these proposals as a necessity to support the future growth aspirations of the city and business community and will improve social mobility for all residents through better access to education and employment.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "This bid pinpoints key commuter corridors and shows how, by delivering more sustainable transport routes, we can improve access to jobs and training, boost social inclusion and improve air quality in the city."

Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member with responsibility for transport, said: "Investment in public transport is vital to support Greater Norwich as it grows and these proposals could make a significant difference to the quality of major bus routes into the city.

"Building on recent investment in the pedalways we can also look forward to an even better sustainable transport network for Norwich."

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said: "This is a massive boost for the area and local economy.

"The funding has the potential to greatly increase access to jobs, reduce congestion and improve our air quality. It will enable us to improve public transport links to our key employment sites around Norwich, such as the Norwich Research Park, the University of East Anglia and the hospital, and provide better integration of the tech corridor with the city transport network, giving local people much greater access to employment opportunities."

Shaun Vincent, leader of Broadland District Council, said: "This opportunity is another step in the right direction to drive economic success in the Greater Norwich area and match the demands of the business community.

"Economic growth is our priority and the potential for improved connectivity through this funding can only support this."

What could it mean?

The council says the Transforming Cities programme would:

- Increase the number of people using buses in Greater Norwich by 6pc - 4,000 extra bus trips each day

- Twenty per cent increase in number of people using park and ride

- 6.6 miles of new bus lane

- 7.2 miles of new cycle lanes, of which 4.4 miles would be new segregated lanes

- Sixty upgraded bus stops and 24 new bus stops as part of the network of mobility hubs

- Almost 100 junctions with traffic light priority for buses

- Reduced air pollution - cuts of 15pc, 18pc and 16pc in nitrogen dioxide levels in Castle Meadow, Norwich Railway Station and Chapel Field Road

- Reduction of 1,600 tonnes in greenhouse gases emissions per year within the city region

- Removing 3,900 single occupancy vehicles from roads in the morning rush hour

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