'Dreadful, frustrating, appalling' - campaigners call for better bus and rail links at north Norfolk station
PUBLISHED: 16:44 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:48 12 December 2018
Campaigners have described transport links at a north Norfolk railway station as "dreadful, frustrating, and appalling" as new figures reveal it gained 10,000 passengers over the past year.
Figures from the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) have shown the number of passengers using Sheringham station has increased from 209,952 in 2016-17, to 221,480 in 2017-18.
And campaigners in north Norfolk described the increase as substantial, and said they are calling on Sanders Coaches, who run the Coasthopper bus service, and Greater Anglia rail company to work together to offer the station’s users a more cohesive public transport service.
James Thomson said: “Public transport needs to be properly integrated at Sheringham, which is the last rail stop, other than King’s Lynn, in north Norfolk.
“The increase [in passengers] is pretty substantial, and people can’t guarantee getting a bus connection to Holt or the Coasthopper - it’s appalling.”
Charles Sanders, owner of Sanders’ Coaches, said it was not practical to change the timetable at this stage, but that he would look into future improvements when Greater Anglia introduces its new trains.
Mr Thomson, 79, and fellow campaigner David Hurdle,72, say they have been highlighting the issue of public transport in Sheringham for almost two years.
They wrote a report in January last year urging the bus and rail companies to integrate timetables.
Mr Hurdle, a semi-retired transport planner who lives in Sheringham, said: “As a local resident I get very frustrated.
“There’s an hourly train on a Sunday and an hourly bus - and the bus leaves Sheringham three minutes before the train arrives.
“It’s dreadful and how they came up with it is beyond me.”
Mr Thomson, a retired surgeon and rail enthusiast from Holt, said: “Norman Lamb has been involved and had a meeting with Sanders and Greater Anglia.”
And Mr Hurdle added that he believed the two companies were now talking to one another, but characterised progress as slow.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he had met with the two companies a few months ago.
He said integrated timetables made public transport “more accessible” and got cars off the road but said it was a complex change for companies with a number of routes to manage.
What did the bus company say?
Charles Sanders, owner of Sanders’ Coaches said he was not currently looking into changing his timetable.
He said: “There are many stations we supply bus links to and it is impossible for the bus to be at Cromer, West Runton and Sheringham at the same time as a train.
“Our buses also provide connections to other services and home to school travel.
“We operate a half-hourly service from Sheringham to Holt and hourly to Wells in the winter, which becomes half-hourly in the summer.
“I do not believe a 20 minute wait is unacceptable.”
He added: “We also have unreliable traffic conditions and delays and congestion are often encountered in Cromer.
“I have met with Greater Anglia and we have agreed to look at this again once their new trains come into service in the next 12 months, as they may need to alter their timetables as a result.
“We are very happy to work together but at this time I am not looking to change my timetables.”
What did the rail company say?
A spokesperson for Greater Anglia said the company was keen to see integration with Sheringham bus timetables.
They said: “This is something we have been keen to develop with Sanders Coaches, and there are some buses that do connect with trains as a result, but it has not been possible for all their buses to align with the train timetable, because of the differing needs of the majority of local bus and train users.
“We will continue to work with bus providers to improve links with onward journeys.
“In addition, our Community Rail Partnership has also funded new information boards at Sheringham which will be dedicated to displaying bus information to help people plan their journeys and the Bittern Line Ranger Ticket will continue to offer discounted travel on Coasthopper Services around the North Norfolk coast.”