Bus Back Better – failing to meet Norfolk’s needs

Norfolk County Council’s ‘Norfolk’s Bus Service Improvement Plan and Enhanced Partnership with Bus Operators’, a response tto the government’s Bus Back Better strategy was discussed today at the Infrastructure and Development Select Committee.

In response Liberal Democrat County Councillor Steff Aquarone said:

Bus cartoon“Our strategy for public transport needs to set a bold vision for the transformation of public transport across Norfolk. This starts with an approach from the outside looking in – asking why people make the journeys they do,  what the barriers there are to them using public transport and then working out how to remove those barriers.  With these questions answered, and a clear vision set, the conversation can turn to how and where the current bus operators fit in the solution, and what will be required from them as a minimum level for participation.

In London, bus transport was dreadful until the Greater London Authority came up with a clear vision – in their case, the idea that I should be able to walk out of my house and wait no more than a reasonable amount of time to catch a bus.  In Norfolk this level of frequency might not yet be viable – but we still need a vision, and I believe that is around reliability, comfort and connectivity.  Simple technology changes have a big role to play, such as contactless payments, live location integration into apps like Google Maps, and simple, seamless, operator-agnostic ticketing and pricing. 

The other big barrier is mindset, and in Norfolk that change needs to start at the County Council.  The current leader calling Norfolk a “car county” sends out the wrong message whether it is currently true or not - and the government deciding on the funding bids will notice.

If the Council had received the maximum amount it could have for the Transforming Cities money it bid for (it didn’t - it only got a third) and gets the maximum amount for the Build Bus scheme, it would still only match the current cost of building the Norwich Western Link - never mind the overall cost of all the other road scheme that Norfolk County Council has it its transport plans.

Bus back better in Norfolk needs total transformation, not iterative improvement.”

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