Question mark hangs over future of popular coastal bus route

A Stagecoach Coasthopper bus. Picture: Ian Burt

A Stagecoach Coasthopper bus. Picture: Ian Burt

A question mark is looming over the future of north Norfolk's popular Coasthopper bus service, after Stagecoach announced it was reviewing its King's Lynn-based operations.

Wells Town Council chairman Allen Frary. Picture: Graham Corney.

Wells Town Council chairman Allen Frary. Picture: Graham Corney. - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

But it has not yet been confirmed whether the service, which connects Lynn to Cromer, is among the lines the operator is planning to cut in response to a challenging economic environment.

But other bus operators including Holt-based Sanders Coaches and Lynn-based Lynx have said they stand ready to help keep the service running if Stagecoach gave up the Norfolk County Council-subsidised route.

Allen Frary, Wells Town Council chairman, said the Coasthopper was vital for the area.

Mr Frary said: 'It's a well used facility, not just for Wells but for the whole north Norfolk coast.

One of the Coasthopper buses. Picture: Ian Burt

One of the Coasthopper buses. Picture: Ian Burt

'With the cutbacks you have to expect some cuts somewhere, but it would be very sad for a lot of communities if the Coasthopper was no longer there.

'A lot of rural communities like ours would be more isolated than they currently are, and it would have a knock-on effect right along the coastline.'

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Charles Sanders, owners of Sanders Coaches, said: 'We wouldn't want to see any services lost if we can help it. How it's going to be operated is not certain yet, but if they asked us to help out I'm certain we would look at it.'

Graham Smith, commercial manager of Lynx, said he expected there would continue to be a coastal bus service, but who would run it and other details were not yet clear.

He said: 'There will still be a bus service along the north Norfolk coast but at this relatively early stage we are not sure whether the new service would be an exact replacement of what is being provided by Stagecoach under the Coasthopper brand.

'It's not yet clear whether the Coasthopper name will be retained, but there will definitely be an equivalent service.'

One 35-year-old King's Lynn bus driver for Stagecoach, who did not want to be named, said last week: 'Some of us have already found other work as a consequence of this. There are about 70 to 80 services running in King's Lynn and I've heard the Coasthopper is going Lynx. They are all being pulled as early as next week.'

A county council spokeswoman said: 'We are sorry to hear that Stagecoach may withdraw from west Norfolk. However, we will work as closely as we can with the company to ensure passengers are kept informed of changes and that the network is covered by alternative providers as much as possible.'

Stagecoach has also been contacted for comment.