Numbers using Kings Lynn to Cromer bus service rockets

A surge in tourists flocking to Norfolk for their holidays has seen the number of people using a coastal route bus service skyrocket.

The popular Coasthopper service, which runs from King's Lynn to Cromer, carried 500,000 people last year – almost double the amount carried in 2008.

Ben Colson, managing director at Norfolk Green, which operates the service, said the rise in passengers had not only been good for their business, but also for others along the route.

However, there are concerns that government funding cuts could impact on the service.

He said: 'We are absolutely delighted that we had 500,000 passengers last year as it is a great milestone to hit, but this doesn't mean we will stop improving the service. It is obviously great news for us and a real pat on the back for our guys on the frontline but it's really good news for the local economy and the environment.

'I know around 80pc of the people we carry have a car they could have used so we have probably helped to keep 250,000 cars off the coastal roads last year.

'The majority of these 500,000 people have also spent money in various points along the route by hopping on and off so they have really helped the local economy.'

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The service was set up in 1996 and carried 25,000 people in its first summer of operation. Mr Colson said the service was then re-launched in 2006 and 2008 to help meet changes in the market.

'In 2008 we carried 270,000 people and in 2009 we carried 421,000 passengers and I think this huge rise over the last two years has been a combination of a number of things. The growing popularity of the Norfolk coast for tourists looking for a short break and a increase in stay at home holidays have been the obvious factors.

'Free travel for the over 60s and the introduction of our new timetable to coincide with the trains arriving at King's Lynn train station has also helped.

'But above all of these word of mouth from people who have used our service from around the country has really helped increase numbers.

'We know this because of the e-mails that are sent to us from these people. They always say that our buses are on time, clean and the drivers we have are superb and friendly.'

Mr Colson said he hopes the number of people using the service will increase next year but fears it could be hit by future government cut backs.

He continued: 'There is a public perception that there is a decline in people using the bus but Coasthopper just shows that is not the case.

'We will continue to deliver more of the same in 2011 but there are some clouds on the horizon.

'The government wants to cut back the money - around 35pc - we get for carrying older people for free and it could hit our Coasthopper service hard.'