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‘Smell of diesel is overpowering’: bus diversion prompts pollution fears

PUBLISHED: 15:24 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:24 17 September 2020

Buses are being diverted through Westwick Street during the Tombland revamp. Pic: Dan Grimmer

Buses are being diverted through Westwick Street during the Tombland revamp. Pic: Dan Grimmer

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People living on a Norwich street which buses have been redirected down say one passes their homes every minute at peak times - and they are concerned about the pollution.

Green councillor Jamie Osborn measure pollution in Westwick Street. Pic: Jamie Osborn.Green councillor Jamie Osborn measure pollution in Westwick Street. Pic: Jamie Osborn.

The closure of Tombland in Norwich for a £2.5m revamp means buses have been diverted through Westwick Street.

Our own survey, between 9.30am and 10am on a weekday morning, recorded 18 buses in the space of 30 minutes.

Retired Claire Watson, 62, who lives in the street, said: “It is incredible that the council did this with no impact assessment as there are very few similarities between Tombland and Westwick Street. One is broad, has two lanes for traffic and is not residential whereas the other is a narrow single lane, and residential.

“The smell of diesel most days is quite overpowering and even on hot days we are forced to keep our windows shut.”

Buses are being diverted through Westwick Street during the Tombland revamp. Pic: Dan GrimmerBuses are being diverted through Westwick Street during the Tombland revamp. Pic: Dan Grimmer

Jamie Osborn, Green city councillor for Mancroft ward, said he wants the council and First to assess the air pollution impact in the street.

He said: “Air pollution kills, and it is especially bad for those who are already vulnerable to other health conditions.

“When buses are being diverted due to roadworks, we need to know whether the new route will be putting residents’ health at risk.

“Norwich is long overdue a decent public transport system and the county council need to ensure buses are on time, affordable, and clean.

Steve Wickers, managing director of First Eastern Counties. 
Picture: Nick ButcherSteve Wickers, managing director of First Eastern Counties. Picture: Nick Butcher

“If they can get it right then buses could be one of the most sustainable and accessible forms of transport for Norwich.”

Steve Wickers, managing director at First Eastern Counties said: “It can be difficult to balance environmental, practical and convenience factors when planning closures and diversions and whichever direction you take, it is likely to generate opinions from local communities and stakeholders alike.

“However, the Westwick Street option was the only feasible diversion available that allowed services to access stops in Castle Meadow which are some of the busiest in the city for many services.”

He said a suggestion had been made to run via Grapes Hill, but was ruled out as it would have meant the Castle Meadow bus stops could not be accessed.

He said: “As a local business that plays a key role in getting people to destinations by bus within the city and its suburbs, we care greatly about the local environment and air quality, which is why our short term strategy is to retro fit more bus engines to make them cleaner.

“And, in the longer term, we have committed to run a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035 as well as pledging not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022.”

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A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said improvements in Tombland and elsewhere through the Transforming Cities programme would improve air quality and punctuality of bus services.

They said: “Following discussions with bus operators whose routes are affected by the Tombland works, Westwick Street was identified as the only temporary diversion route for southbound services that enables bus users to access key city centre locations.

“We always seek to minimise any adverse impacts which is why a separate diversion route via Riverside Road was selected for all other vehicles to limit the traffic impact on Westwick Street.

“We ask for the public’s patience while the temporary diversion is in place and would like to stress that improvements being carried out in Tombland and all those proposed as part of our wider Transforming Cities programme are designed to improve air quality and the punctuality of bus services in the city centre, as well as encourage more people to walk and cycle.

“In addition, the Transforming Cities programme, which represents the largest investment in greener transport that has been seen in Norwich, includes a commitment for the provision of new and cleaner buses.”


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