Coasthopper news – updated 29th November
Norfolk Green has provided the acclaimed Coasthopper bus service along the outstanding North Norfolk Coast between King’s Lynn, Hunstanton, Wells, Sheringham and Cromer since 1996. Since then the number of people who choose to use it to access tourist businesses, nature and wildlife reserves, walks along the Coast path, sightseeing, or local residents going about their normal business has grown annually such that in each of the last three years the buses have carried over half a million people. Despite this, and mainly because of the low level of compensation paid for travel by free pass holders based on national guidelines, without further financial support, the route loses money.
It keeps running, Winter and Summer seven days a week, due to the further financial support provided under contract by Norfolk County Council. That support has been progressively reduced over the past three years such that, with the further cuts planned by the County Council to take effect in April 2014, the route will routinely lose money. As the provider of the service on the route, that is not an acceptable business proposition to Norfolk Green. We have always said that the route will continue to make money in Summer, but lose so much in the Winter that the overall effect is a loss.
The County Council has just completed its three open meetings with local residents to explain its rationale for making these further funding cuts. Over 300 people attended these meetings – a very large turnout indeed in such a rural area - which shows the importance of the route to local people. We did not attend, as it was for county officials to explain their plans to their residents, and as such had nothing to do with us as the operating company. When we hear the outcome, we shall react accordingly and set the timetable to the available funding.
The County Council will no doubt consider the views put forward at the meetings and reach a decision on whether to proceed with the funding cut. Whatever your views, it is really important that you contact them individually to state your case. The financial risk on the route is taken exclusively by us as the provider, and so we shall take whatever actions we see appropriate to maintain the level of profit we need to build funds for future investment, such as, when the time comes, new vehicles. As it stands, our outline plans are to provide a broadly similar Summer timetable for 2014 as was the case for this year, but, as the route loses money in the Winter, so to make cuts to the Winter 2014-15 timetable.
The decision lies entirely in the hands of Norfolk County Council, it is for them to decide what they think is appropriate funding and for them to take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions.