Norfolk Green boss tells MPs buses are not being “routinely” cleaned

Bus passengers have supported a decision by a bus company to stop 'routinely' cleaning their vehicles to save money.

Ben Colson, managing director of King's Lynn-based Norfolk Green, told a specialist committee of MPs last week of the cost-cutting measures his company was being forced to take in light of cuts in public sector subsidy funding.

Speaking to the House of Common's Transport Committee, Mr Colson said: 'We've cut our overhead costs, in particular things like cleaning.

'We don't clean vehicles as often. We make sure we try to keep on top of it but we don't clean vehicles often routinely.

'Am I proud of that? No, I'm not at all, but we have been forced into that situation.

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'We feel people would rather have buses slightly dirtier than to not have a bus at all, to take an extreme example.'

Richard Pengelly, Norfolk Green's operations manager, has said most buses, which used to be cleaned every time they passed through the depot, are still cleaned once a day.

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Norfolk Green bus user Jean Fox, 63, from North Lynn, said: 'As long as my bus is cleaned every day and I still get the same level of service then I don't mind.

'With the cuts in public spending, I think people will understand that companies, like Norfolk Green, have to look at everything to save money and, quite simply, survive.'

Fellow bus user Richard Foote, 67, from King's Lynn added: 'The bus is my only way of getting around to see friends and family because I can't drive now.

'I would much rather travel on a bus that is only cleaned once a day than not have a bus service at all and I am sure others in my position will feel the same.'

Mr Colson also told MPs last Tuesday that the company is reducing the number of buses on certain routes and the firm was cutting the last journey of the day from some routes to around 6pm rather than 7pm.

He continued: 'What we have done for some years now, not just as a result of the current uncertainities, is set about trying to win new customers. Our whole emphasis is on that.

'We are doing all sorts of things to build our customer base because ultimately that has got to be the right thing for the business.'

He added: 'We are not putting our fares up but we are keeping a close eye on that. It may come depending more on diesel prices.'

The revelation by Mr Colson comes after Norfolk Green announced its popular Coasthopper service, which runs from King's Lynn to Cromer, carried 500,000 people last year – almost double the amount carried in 2008.

The company was started in 1996 with the ambition of improving the quality and quantity of bus travel in West Norfolk and now has a fleet of 55 buses that spans 80 miles across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

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