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Community bus service could expand to plug gap left by possible Stagecoach depot closure

West Norfolk Community Transport's Go To Town service. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

West Norfolk Community Transport's Go To Town service. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

A community bus service could expand to plug the gap left by the potential closure of a major bus company's King's Lynn depot.

The Stagecoach depot on the King's Lynn Hardwick Narrows Industrial Estate. Picture: Ian BurtThe Stagecoach depot on the King's Lynn Hardwick Narrows Industrial Estate. Picture: Ian Burt

Stagecoach, which runs around 50 vehicles and employs 120 staff in the town, has said it is reviewing its operations in Norfolk.

It blames a combination of rising operating costs and pressure on public sector budgets.

That puts many county bus routes in jeopardy.

However West Norfolk Community Transport (WNCT) said it is “looking very seriously at the effects” of the announcement, adding: “We are considering the role we can play going forward.”

Stagecoach Coasthopper bus. Picture: Ian BurtStagecoach Coasthopper bus. Picture: Ian Burt

The charity has provided door-to-door services for people unable to access public transport due to their location for more than 25 years.

However it also provides a number of public service routes on minibuses under its “Go To Town” scheme, such as the number 10 Swaffham town service and the number 47 from Downham Market to King’s Lynn.

The organisation said it is “currently looking at purchasing options for new, larger vehicles” and that it would recruit drivers, engineering staff and cleaners “for any routes which we may become the operator”.

A statement from the charity said: “We believe it may open up opportunities for us, as a charity, to become more self-sufficient and allow every bus passenger we carry to give something back to the community, simply by using our services.

The launch of the Go To Town bus route by West Norfolk Community Transport in 2016. From left, Sir Henry Bellingham, Mark Elvin, Richard Pengelly, Yvonne Bridger, Malcolm Hipkin, Tim Tilbrook, Vic Cross and John Bridger. Picture: MATTHEW USHERThe launch of the Go To Town bus route by West Norfolk Community Transport in 2016. From left, Sir Henry Bellingham, Mark Elvin, Richard Pengelly, Yvonne Bridger, Malcolm Hipkin, Tim Tilbrook, Vic Cross and John Bridger. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

“We are in the lucky position that we are currently planning a move to a new site for our offices and workshops.

“This will enable us to expand into new work. We will be able to make arrangements for larger, vehicles.

“Our offices are being built with a future proof concept which allows for expansion.

“Whilst there are hurdles still to overcome, we believe that WNCT and local operators, with the support of Norfolk County Council, will be able to provide West Norfolk with the services which are expected.”

Bus company Lynx has already said it is looking to expand its business amid news of the Stagecoach review.

Julian Patterson, director at Lynx, said: “We don’t envisage that any locations that are currently served by Stagecoach in Norfolk will be left without a bus service from April 30.

“However, due to the relatively short timescales involved it’s possible that any replacement bus services that we introduce may not initially operate quite as frequently as they do at the moment.”

Stagecoach said it has met with trade union representatives to minimise the impact of staff and launched a consultation with employees over the potential closure of its Lynn depot.

The company is hoping to relocate some of its staff with other operators or elsewhere within the eastern region.

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