Villagers plead with transport bosses to save bus route

Campaigners in a Norfolk village are pleading with bus company bosses to preserve a vital transport link to their rural community.

First Buses is reviewing the punctuality and reliability of its services ahead of the introduction of a new timetable, and has identified a problem with the X1 route in Hockering, near Dereham.

Bus drivers are being delayed by up to five minutes while making the right turn out of the village on to the busy A47.

First Eastern Counties' managing director Alan Pilbeam said the village stop would not be changed when the new timetable is published at the end of March. But he said the problem had to be addressed as the cumulative delays were damaging the route's economic viability and punctuality – and he pledged to keep the village involved in any future decisions.

Hockering parish clerk Penny Hawker said she was 'very appreciative' of Mr Pilbeam's response, and said every option must be explored to maintain the half-hourly service connecting the village with Norwich, Dereham and King's Lynn. 'We will do anything to keep our wonderful bus service, as it would be devastating to this village to lose it,' she said.

'A lot of people moved to Hockering on the basis of its good bus service. The elderly people in particular will be lost without it, and so will a lot of people who use it to go to work.

'We have got to find a solution. It is farcical that there should be a bus service coming past Hockering and not stopping here.'

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Mr Pilbeam said a five-minute delay could potentially ruin the punctuality of the route, as each bus is required to arrive at various 'timing points' within a six-minute window, set by area traffic commissioners.

He said: 'We have made a number of changes to the X1 service over time and there have been stepped improvements in the service but, as time passes, congestion gets irrevocably worse.

'The long and short of it is that we are required to register changes for the new timetable by the end of this month, and I've told our drivers we are not going to change the routeing through Hockering. But there is clearly a problem and we need to go through the issues of punctuality with Norfolk County Council officers and the parish council representatives to find a mutually acceptable solution to these problems.'

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