£700k 'on-demand' bus for more than 20 Norfolk villages and hamlets
- Credit: Matthew Usher
A new 'on-demand' bus service is to be created to serve more than 20 Norfolk villages and hamlets.
Norfolk County Council has been awarded a £700,000 share of the government’s £20m rural mobility fund.
The Department for Transport had invited councils to bid for money to provide on-demand services in areas underserved by traditional bus services.
Norfolk County Council's bid for the money was accepted and will see the authority buy a vehicle to provide an on-demand bus service in the area around Swaffham for the next four years.
The service, described in the council's bid as a Breckland and West Norfolk Flexi-link service, would cover an area of 85 square miles to the south and south-west of Swaffham.
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About 7,250 people live within the area it would cover.
Martin Wilby, the council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: “I very much welcome this funding which will help us to greatly improve transport options for more than 20 villages and hamlets to the south and south-west of Swaffham.
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“Currently the area is very underserved by public transport.
"Receiving all the funding we were looking for means we can now look to set up a convenient and flexible bus service to help make it much easier for people of all ages to access employment, education and other essential services such as medical appointments."
Mr Wilby said County Hall intended to buy a modern, accessible vehicle, with WiFi and USB charging points.
He said people would be able to book the bus online and over the phone.
He said: "As well as flexible daytime travel options from Monday to Saturday, a key part of the service would be a dedicated demand-based commuter shuttle into Swaffham at peak times.
"This will allow workers and students to get into Swaffham for local employment and study, or to make onward journeys to King’s Lynn, Dereham and Norwich."
And Mr Wilby said the aim was to get the service to be self-supporting in the long-run.
He said: "The funding should allow us to set up the service and run it for four years, to give time for the service to become established and hopefully self-supporting into the future.”
Ed Colman, Conservative county councillor for Swaffham, said: "This funding will have a real impact on people's day to day lives in and around Swaffham.
"I have been working hard with our officer team and Mr Wilby to try to improve public transport routes in and around the town and this funding will allow us to put our plans in action.
"This is a service that has the potential to be self-supporting in the future and as we come out of COVID-19 restrictions I think people will really utilise this service to get into Swaffham."