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Super-fast bus routes for Norwich could be on the way as bid for £840m fund is lodged

PUBLISHED: 11:50 16 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:19 17 June 2018

Norwich Bus Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Bus Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

Three new super-fast bus routes could cut through Norwich to link communities and business areas as the revolution to relegate cars from pole position gathers pace.

Map showing where new transport hubs could be added to Norwich bus routes, Picture: Transport for NorwichMap showing where new transport hubs could be added to Norwich bus routes, Picture: Transport for Norwich

The routes, featuring zero-emission buses running every eight minutes, would connect Norwich Airport to Broadland Business Park, Wymondham to Sprowston and Easton to Rackheath.

The city is looking to be shortlisted with 10 other cities after bidding for a potential eight-figure sum from the £840m Department for Transport’s Transforming Cites Fund.

In an application supported by MPs Chloe Smith, Keith Simpson and Richard Bacon, Transport for Norwich has set out its ambitions to improve bus services in and around Norwich over the next four years.

The proposals include:

Broadland district councillor, John Fisher. Photo: Broadland District CouncilBroadland district councillor, John Fisher. Photo: Broadland District Council

n The three new rapid bus routes connecting Norwich Airport to Broadland Business Park, Wymondham to Sprowston and Easton to Rackheath

n Bus services connecting Norwich bus and train stations

n Zero emission and Euro V standard buses on park and ride services

n Minimum of eight minute frequency on day time services on the three main routes.

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, Pic: Eliza Boo PhotographyChloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, Pic: Eliza Boo Photography

John Fisher, chairman of the Norwich highways agency committee, which consists of members of the county and city councils, said: “This bid is the first stage of an exciting opportunity to transform how we travel around Norwich.

“Working with our local authority partners, the 
ambition is to deliver an integrated public transport network that supports growth in homes, jobs and local economy across the city.”

In a letter supporting the application, Norwich North MP Ms Smith said: “I expect my constituents to benefit from all three of the proposed corridors.

“I particularly welcome the emphasis placed on making education more accessible and allowing employers to draw on a wider pool of labour.”

The bid identifies places as priorities, looking to improve connectivity for students of the University of East Anglia and Easton and Otley College, while also making it easier to access the Broadland Business Park and the Norwich Research Park.

TfN should hear if the city has been shortlisted to bid in July or August.

Challenges

The bid sets out a number of challenges the city currently faces, supporting the need for transformation.

In the application, it is argued buses have insufficient priority over cars, making it quicker to travel by car - despite drivers reportedly wasting 26 hours a year in peak hour congestion.

The application also says currently no buses serve the centre of the Broadland Growth Triangle, where there are 13,500 homes.

It also says: “Norwich Research Park is Europe’s largest site for research in food, health and life sciences, hosting over 80 businesses and 12,000 employees, but poor connections to train and bus services hamper growth and cause congestion.”

The application also identifies Norwich as the 18th most congested of the United Kingdom’s 111 large UK urban areas.

Mr Fisher said: “Our application identifies the main transport challenges we face and proposes a package of improvements to address them.

“If shortlisted, we can start the detailed work needed to realise the wide-reaching benefits significant investment of this kind would bring.”

What is the Transforming Cities Fund?

The Transforming Cities Fund was unveiled in the March 2018 budget, making £1.7bn available to cities looking to promote intra-city connectivity.

Half of this has already been allocated to the country’s six mayoral combined authorities - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, West of England, West Midlands and Tees Valley.

The remaining £840m has been made available for cities to submit bids for, of which Norwich is one.

The first phase of the bidding sees cities look to join a shortlist, which will then compete for the remaining £840m share.

Up to 10 cities can be shortlisted for the next stage of bidding, which is due to be unveiled within two months.

If successful, the Department for Transport will then work with these cities to develop an appropriate package to take forward.

Final decisions on the funding amounts will only be made once the quality of all successful applications has been assessed.

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