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Deal with congestion to speed up buses, transport chief says

PUBLISHED: 10:52 05 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:52 05 January 2020

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A transport chief is calling for congestion problems in Norfolk to be sorted out to make peak time bus travel easier, despite a spike in journeys.

A Sanders Coaches bus in North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYA Sanders Coaches bus in North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties, said: "There is still a great deal to do in addressing the congestion issue which is having a negative effect on people travelling by bus especially at peak times in the morning and afternoon.

"We will continue to work with our partners to improve bus priority on key corridors into and out of our towns and cities along with a strong commitment to investing further in our fleet provision and network expansion."

His message comes as Office for National Statistics figures reveal bus travel is on the rise in Norfolk, which is bucking the national trend.

According to a Department for Transport report, 28.4 million bus journeys were made, or 31.4 journeys per head, from April 2018 to end of March 2019, compared with 27.6 million, or 30.7 journeys per head, in the same period from 2017/18.

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Nationally the number of bus passenger journeys in England fell by 29 million in the year ending March 2019.

Mr Speed added: "We have been successful in reversing to negative trend through working closely with our local authorities and partners to offer a comprehensive network of services with easy payment options for fare purchases, new links to important places such as hospitals along with village and city connections."

Since First Eastern Counties launched its mTicket online app in October 2015 and buses started taking contactless card payments in 2018, 55pc of passengers travel with cashless methods.

Charles Sanders, managing director of Holt-based Sanders Coaches, said the increase in bus travel in Norfolk was due to financial support from the county council.

He said: "A lot of councils around the country have taken swingeing cuts to the bus services but Norfolk County Council has not. There would be rural isolation if the council didn't support the buses."

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for highways and infrastructure and chair of the transforming cities joint committee, said: "It's great to see that Norfolk is bucking the trend with more and more people opting to use bus services. The news is very timely with work commencing at Norwich Bus Station on January 6 to deliver improved facilities for everyone using the station."

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