UPDATE: Blow for North Norfolk bus users as Sanders set to put up fares by at least 10pc
Rural bus users face a body blow as Sanders Coaches is increasing all of its fares by a minimum of 10pc from Sunday.
The big hike, announced on its website, has been blamed on rising fuel costs and a 20pc reduction in the bus service operator grant received by Sanders, which has depots at Fakenham, Holt and North Walsham.
A statement on the website said it was the first increase since November 2010, and added that the combined cost to Sanders of reduced grant and paying more for fuel was 'in excess of �400,000'.
The statement said: 'We still believe we offer extremely good value for money and trust that whilst we accept any increase is difficult at this time, you understand the severe rise in costs we are facing leaves us with no alternative as we wish to stay in business.'
Sanders operates a host of services largely to the north of Norwich, serving towns including Aylsham, Cromer, Fakenham, Holt, North Walsham, Stalham and Wroxham.
Its services bring many town and village residents in and out of Norwich for work and shopping.
Managing director Charles Sanders said a cut in the government fuel rebate amounted to �110,000 per year, while rising fuel prices meant 'everything was coming under pressure'.
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He added that more than half of Sanders bus users were concessions, which meant the firm could not get anything extra from them.
And he said: 'There's nothing we can do about this increase. We either put the fares up or go out of business - or start dumping the least profitable routes.
'We've spent a great deal of time improving the bus services in the area, and we want to continue that.'
Jono Read, vice chairman of North Norfolk Labour Party, said: 'Bus fare rises are inevitable when funding is being cut by councils, but I fear that rising fares and cuts in services will have an impact.
'We all should be encouraging people to give up their cars for public transport, but it is made all the more difficult by these announcements.'
? What do you think about the increases? How will you be affected? Add your comments below or call Steve Downes on 01263 513920.