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More people ‘choose the bus’ in Norfolk after first year of bus service improvement plan

It’s been just over a year since Norfolk County Council received £49.55m of funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) to improve bus services across the county. There have been huge numbers of improvements already made across the county, and the latest figures show that passenger numbers have increased throughout the year with the number of fare-paying passengers now exceeding pre-covid levels.

Passenger numbers across the UK fell dramatically during the covid-19 pandemic with an average drop across the UK of 50.3% but in many areas even more.

Latest figures for Norfolk show that overall bus passenger numbers have increased by 18% in the last year with the number of fare-paying passengers now at 107% compared to pre-pandemic baseline figures. Norfolk is bucking the trend as nationally bus usage figures are at between 89% to 98% of pre-pandemic levels*.  

Concessionary pass holders, who have been the slowest to return to using the bus since the pandemic, are now at 83% of pre-pandemic levels and have increased by more than 12% since January this year. 

Graham Plant, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport said; “These figures are a testament to all the fantastic work being delivered as part of our bus service improvement plan. From campaigns to encourage more people to choose the bus, to the huge number of service improvements, cheaper fares and improved bus stops – it has all come together to bring hundreds of thousands of people back to the bus. The pandemic hit our bus services hard so getting more people on board was vital for ensuring these important services remain viable and running for the future.”

Norfolk received the sixth highest allocation in the country and the funding consists of £30.9m of capital funding and £18.6m of revenue funding.

Approximately £12 million of the funding was allocated to providing new or expanded bus routes and increased service frequencies on key routes, including more evening and weekend services and this has been very much the focus of the spend in this first year of funding.

  • A total of 31 enhancements have been made to services this year bringing more regular bus services to 93 parishes with a population of more than 306,000 people.
  • There are now more evening services on key routes across 21 parishes in the county including to Dereham, Watton, Thorpe St Andrew and Horsford.
  • 49 parishes have an improved Saturday service while 5 parishes are benefitting from improved Sunday services.

In addition to the service enhancements year one of delivering the bus service improvement plan for the county has also seen the following infrastructure improvements.

  • The first Travel Norfolk Travel Hub opened in North Walsham providing improved waiting areas with real-time information and integration with walking and cycling facilities.
  • A county-wide review of bus stops has started with stops in Hunstanton and Swaffham and Hellesdon being upgraded to our new gold standard.
  • 84 accessible bus stop boarding points have been delivered countywide.

Bus travel has also become cheaper this year and offers great value for money thanks not only to the Government fare cap which most operators in Norfolk have signed up to but also 4 local fares offers delivered thanks to the bus service improvement plan:

  • £1.50 flat fares for King’s Lynn
  • £1.50 flat fares for Thetford
  • 25% off group, weekly and monthly tickets
  • Reduced park & ride fares


*taken from DfT Usage of transport by mode report

Bus (GB exc. London) 96% (Monday 9 October 2023)
Bus boardings outside of London on Monday 9 October 2023 were 96% of the volume observed on the equivalent day in the third week of January 2020. This is 6 percentage points higher compared to the equivalent day in the previous year (90% on Monday 10 October 2022). In the current publishing period weekday bus usage has been between 89% to 98% of the pre-Covid baseline, in comparison to between 71% to 92% in the last publishing period