More than £150,000 is set to be invested into the newly expanded Coasthopper bus service between Lynn and Hunstanton, which began operating today, Monday, November 17.
Norfolk Green bosses made the announcement as they launched the improved route in Lynn’s Tuesday Market Place on Friday.
And a community representative and regular service user said it was an early Christmas present for the area.
Two new buses, costing around £100,000 in total, are to be introduced onto the route.
And a further £60,000 will be spent refitting the route’s existing fleet of 12 vehicles in time for next year’s summer season.
From today, the service began operating on a half-hourly, rather than hourly, basis, with the additional journeys running through the village of Heacham, instead of solely stopping near the traffic lights on the edge of the village.
Managing director Andrew Dyer said the decision to increase the service reflected the importance of the route to residents’ daily lives.
He said: “What we’re seeing with Coasthopper is the passnegers travelling primarily between Lynn and Hunstanton are different from the people who travel further round the coast. We get far more commuters and shoppers travelling between Lynn and Hunstanton.”
He said the expansion was on a section of the route that does not receive subsidy from Norfolk County Council and added: “We’re very pleased to take Coasthopper into a new phase in its life.”
Representatives of parish councils along the route were invited to join in the celebrations, including Norfolk Green’s former owner, and the current chairman of Sandringham parish council, Ben Colson.
Mr Colson was delighted to see the expansion of the service, which the firm first launched in 1996.
He described it as an “oil” to drive the local economy and which, at its peak in 2011, carried 586,000 passengers around the West and North Norfolk coast.
He said: “It’s really good to see it growing. It’s absolutely superb.”
And he believes the route could become even more popular once new half-hourly train services from London to Lynn, which are due to begin operating in 2017, come into effect.
Passengers can already purchase through tickets for use on the trains and Coasthopper buses and Mr Colson said: “It’s a phenomenal opportunity.”
Tony Boardman, a member of Hunstanton’s town council who regularly uses the services, said: “It’s just fantastic. It really is a Christmas present.”
And North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said the expansion would help to reassure the public about the future of services in the area, following the sale of Norfolk Green to the Stagecoach group last year.
He said: “It’s fantastic news for the coast and what it does is to put a lot of people’s minds at rest.
“When Stagecoach took over Norfolk Green people said they would cherry pick the best routes and get rid of the rest. It absolutely shows their commitment and it’s a significant investment.”
He said the expansion was also particularly good news for Heacham, where an express service had only previously been available from the stops on the A149, close to the traffic lights at Norfolk Lavender.
West Norfolk’s Mayor, Barry Ayres, added: “It’s a big day. I’m absolutely delighted to see this service expanding.”