First speaks out over changes to UEA, Norwich hospital, Bowthorpe and West Earlham bus route

Bus operator First has defended its decision to make changes to a route serving the University of East Anglia – as a petition is launched calling for the plans to be stopped.

The 21/22 service currently runs throughout the year from the UEA to the city centre via the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), Bowthorpe and West Earlham.

But from January 15 the UEA will not be on the route. First will not have a direct link between the UEA and hospital, and a number 40 route will link the UEA with Bowthorpe and West Earlham at peak times in term time only.

Students and other members of the community are concerned by the changes and a petition has been set up by city councillor Samir Jeraj.

When asked the reasons for the changes, a First spokesman said: 'The decision to alter this service was not taken lightly and follows on from discussions with officials from the UEA, the N&N and various stakeholders.

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'During these times of austerity, the UK bus industry continues to fight rising fuel and insurance costs, changes to concessionary fares and reimbursement procedures, as well as reductions in BSOG payments (fuel duty rebate) and council funding. Therefore, in light of these factors, we have unfortunately had to make several changes to services in the area.

'A recent full and thorough review of the 21/22 service – which included detailed analysis of ticketing machine data – revealed that very few passengers are carried between the University and the N&N, and that this particular section of the route is no longer financially viable to operate. It is with regret that the decision was taken to withdraw this part of the service.

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'Despite this withdrawal, there are still two half-hourly services from Earlham Road to the hospital (Konectbus services 3 and 4).'

The spokesperson said the changes to the West Earlham and Bowthorpe part of the service were being made for similar reasons but said the routes were regularly monitored and the company would react to any changes in travel patterns. But Mr, Jeraj and the Union of UEA students are urging people to sign a petition calling for First's plans to be reversed.

Tash Ross, community and student rights officer at the Union of UEA students, said: 'The 21/22 route is a really important service, not just for students but for many other people too.'

She said the changes would cut many people off from the university, and there were concerns the changes have not been publicised enough and so people may turn up for a bus service that no longer exists.

What do you think about First's changes? Email

Sign the petition at the-2122-and-40-bus-services

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