Norfolk County Council secures £50m for bus improvements whilst Suffolk County Council left wanting
People in Norfolk will enjoy the benefits of almost £50 million in improvements to local bus services, while those across the border in Suffolk have been left reeling after being snubbed by the Government completely.
On Monday, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that Norfolk would receive £49.6 million in funding to boost services in the county, while Suffolk failed to secure a single penny.
Suffolk’s Bus Service Improvement Plan bid, lodged at the end of last year as part of the Government’s Bus Back Better scheme, requested £77 million over three years and £107 million over five years for a series of upgrades. The DfT rejected the bid, citing a lack of ambition.
The DfT said: “As stated in last year’s national bus strategy, areas not showing sufficient ambition, including for improvements to bus priority, would not be funded.”
The mood of councillors in Norfolk reflected the contrasting fortunes of the two counties. Of the £106 million requested as part of Norfolk’s Bus Service Improvement Plan bid, Norfolk County Council managed to secure almost half, making it the sixth highest beneficiary of the funding in the country.
“We’re very ambitious here in Norfolk,” said Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport at Norfolk County Council. “Obviously, I’m very pleased to receive this funding from the DfT, and now there’s a lot of work to do to look at the priorities and what we can fund through this. It’s certainly good news for the county.”
Opposition councillors said the Conservative administration at Suffolk County Council had been “asleep at the wheel” for its bid.
Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for transport, said: “It is disappointing, but it should be remembered that this funding would have been over and above our existing budget of £1.58 million.
“Communities and bus users can be assured that we will continue to strive to provide the best possible service and infrastructure with the existing funding, and through working together with operators.”
In response, Andrew Stringer, leader of the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said: “The Conservative county council can’t even get a successful bid through their own party’s government.
“Despite all the warnings we gave, Suffolk Conservatives were simply not ambitious enough in their bid.
“The electorate have the right to feel incredibly short-changed by the Conservatives that run the council.”
As outlined in Norfolk’s plan, funding will go towards providing easier ticketing, cheaper tickets for under 25s, and improved services in rural areas.
Cllr Wilby, who also serves as a district councillor for the Beck Vale, Dickleburgh and Scole ward, added: “In south Norfolk, cheaper and simpler tickets are the things that will really affect us here.
“That’s something that’s going to be good for all of the rural parts of Norfolk.”