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Research shows extent of poor public transport connections between towns and villages

PUBLISHED: 09:05 09 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:22 09 August 2018

A map showing the density of transport links to Norwich. Picture: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

A map showing the density of transport links to Norwich. Picture: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

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Further calls have been made for more investment in public transport after research showed how long it can take people to travel across the county on buses, starting off at 8am.

Steve Morphew wants more investment in public transport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSteve Morphew wants more investment in public transport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Maps show that it can take more than two hours to travel small distances due to poor transport connections between towns and villages.

The research found that people in deprived communities were being let down by unreliable and expensive bus services.

Business writer Huw Sayer said on social media: “Map of Norwich is interesting: shows how Great Yarmouth is cut off compared with Diss which has faster rail link and mismatch between commute times and main employment area. I wonder if the new Norwich NDR will improve this.”

Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), found that residents were reliant on buses, as running a car and taking the train were too expensive.

A First bus in Norwich. Picture: Edward Starr Photographer.A First bus in Norwich. Picture: Edward Starr Photographer.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: “This research does not surprise me at all. I think it’s an accurate reflection.

“We have been calling for more investment in public transport to bring it on a level with cars.

“Ropey bus services can affect easy access for health care, job opportunities, other services, or tackling isolation.”

Ed Ferrari, director of regional economic and social research at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Problems with high fares, poor coordination between different providers and services, and lack of reliability seriously hamper the ability of low-income groups to commute to more distant jobs.”

A map showing the density of transport links to King's Lynn. Picture: Joseph Rowntree FoundationA map showing the density of transport links to King's Lynn. Picture: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties, said; “Much work has gone on to improve public transport across Norfolk and Suffolk with huge investment in vehicle specifications, commitment in new technology such as contactless and mobile phone payment facilities and strong partnerships with Norfolk County Council and other key stakeholders in the region.

“As bus operators, we rely on assistance from local councils 
to help improve roads, congested junctions and traffic light 
phasing to provide speedier bus journeys.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said it provided around £250m every year to support services up and down the country.

Response from First Eastern Counties to the findings

A map showing the density of transport links in Waveney. Picture: Joseph Rowntree FoundationA map showing the density of transport links in Waveney. Picture: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties, said: “The areas of Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Ipswich are very well served by comprehensive bus networks offering frequent bus services linking local communities with the city of Norwich, local towns, the coast and inner urban areas.

“The average time people spend on the bus is around 20 minutes which is a fairly short length of time to make a journey, whether it’s for work or leisure, but this can be slightly longer at peak times of the day when traffic congestion is at its busiest.

“We are very conscious that punctuality, reliability, comfort and cost are the main priorities for our customers, so it is vitally important that we concentrate on all areas of service delivery including ‘congestion’ which can be perceived as a barrier to people using public transport. Actually buses can be the answer to reducing congestion as one bus with the capacity to carry around 70 people could equate to removing up to 30 cars off the road, thus reducing congestion, especially around busy junctions and arterial corridors into city/town centres.”

Comment: Journeys must be made easy for all of us

A map showing the density of transport links to Great Yarmouth. Picture: Joseph Rowntree FoundationA map showing the density of transport links to Great Yarmouth. Picture: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The news that it can take up to two hours to travel short distances on public transport in some parts of Norfolk will come as no surprise to those who rely on these services every day.

Of course, while it is expected that roads will be busier as people rush to get to work in the morning, it often feels like our county is poorly connected in terms of getting from A to B, whether that be by car, bus, or train.

It is a difficult argument to make, therefore, when we are told to try to reduce the usage of our cars to tackle our carbon footprint, when the alternative services are not always up to scratch.

Not all blame lies at the feet of the providers.

It is true that they need to work in partnership with local authorities to improve roads and junctions. But for those standing at a bus stop in the morning, when the scheduled service has not arrived, or stuck waiting for a yet another cancelled train, it can be extremely frustrating.

The research also found that people in deprived communities were being let down by unreliable and expensive bus services.

This is even more of a worry as public transport may well be the only option available in some areas.

As we continue to try to tackle loneliness and isolation in our communities – which affects so many – it is vital they are not cut off and the level of service we all expect is delivered.

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