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Rural buses set for major overhaul

PUBLISHED: 09:06 21 March 2007 | UPDATED: 12:37 22 October 2010

Commuters between Norwich and south Norfolk are preparing for the first shake-up of their bus service for 40 years - including a £250,000 investment in three new coaches.

Commuters between Norwich and south Norfolk are preparing for the first shake-up of their bus service for 40 years - including a £250,000 investment in three new coaches.

Simonds Coaches, which runs services between the city and Long Stratton, Diss and south Norfolk villages, is boosting the number of daytime services into Norwich

and introducing seatbelts on its new buses.

But commuters between Long Stratton and Diss will be left with longer waits after work with a 5.30pm northbound bus now moved forward to 4.45pm to allow for better connection in Norwich. The next and final service is at 6.45pm.

Managing director Martin Simonds said that the changes, the first major tinkering since the service was introduced in 1966, were designed to fit around commuters travelling between south Norfolk and the city - the vast majority of passengers using the buses.

“We are bringing online new vehicles to cater for the new timetable and hopefully the level of service will be improved with more journeys than in the past,” he said.

“There will be a far greater level of service between Diss and Norwich, and for the first time we'll be operating a seven-day-a-week service and bringing in vehicles with a lower floor and wheelchair and pushchair space.”

Mr Simonds said that a current Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday daytime service would also be extended to Mondays and Fridays when the new timetable is introduced on April 1, and buses will now finish their journey at Norwich rail station rather than John Lewis.

But Rebecca Everall, who lives near Long Stratton and works in Diss, said the new timetable would make it difficult for her to continue using buses to commute to work - potentially threatening her job.

“For people like me who rely on this bus to get home from work, this is disastrous,” she said.

“Simonds has lost an opportunity to create a timetable that encourages public transport commuting, instead making life more and more difficult for those of us who try to live without a car.

“I stand to lose my job over this - it is no less serious.”

Mr Simonds said: “The biggest problem we're up against is low numbers - two to seven people at that time do not make it a viable to continue. We value all our customers but sadly the numbers of people coming into Diss during the day are very low.”

And Norfolk County Council is currently considering whether to introduce a flexibus service to the route, which can be booked over the phone and would run from Long Stratton to Diss and back at a time convenient for commuters.

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