May 23 2013 Latest news:
Kathryn Bradley, Reporter
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
A raft of proposals to improve public transport and reduce isolation in rural areas have been put forward by a pair of Norfolk councils.
The ideas include providing greater advice and financial support for community transport organisations, more regular and later running services and better information about timetables.
The joint North Norfolk and Broadland district council time and task limited panel also proposed advising public transport providers about the need for their drivers to be courteous, helpful and welcoming.
North Norfolk councillor Tom FitzPatrick, who represents North Walsham ward and is also a panel member, said: “In some areas there is relatively good public transport with access to trains, buses and community transport but there are also places where the provision is patchy and there is a real feeling of isolation. This is what we have been looking at.”
The panel, which met for the first time last October, is made up of four elected members from each of the two district councils and has been tasked with conducting a review of public transport in North Norfolk and Broadland districts. During the review, the panel met with senior figures at the county council and questioned parish and town councils, community transport providers and bus operators. Their recommendations have already been endorsed by Broadland District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee and go before North Norfolk on Tuesday.
Other recommendations include considering ring-fencing funding to support community transport schemes and relaxing the criteria to achieve funding, encouraging community transport providers to reach out to young people who need a bus service in the evenings, providing timetable information in shops, libraries, schools and doctors surgeries and encouraging bus operators to take buses through villages instead of stopping on busy bypass roads.
Coun FitzPatrick said: “If we don’t have transport in a village it is difficult for people to access employment or popular services. There are imaginative ways of tackling this to make sure people can get to work at any time of day or night. Some people can’t afford a car so we have got the Kickstart scheme, which helps people to buy a moped. We can’t expect a bus to run for one or two people but we can enable people to get their own transport.
“There is also a need to better balance out provision to make sure that, wherever possible, duplication is avoided. If there is already a train and a bus service to one town but the only bus to an outlying village is under threat then we need to prioritise the place where the bus service is the only means of public transport. If there is a stark choice to make we want to make sure we protect the services in rural areas where there is no alternative.”
Coun FitzPatrick said cuts in funding from central government meant there was less money to subsidise public transport in rural areas. He said it was therefore important the district councils focused on the subject to examine how issues could be addressed.