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Bus firm rides in with a service pledge for West Norfolk and new chief pledges to support Coasthopper

Norfolk Green changes:
New Managing Director Andrew Dyer (left) with Ben Colson

Norfolk Green changes: New Managing Director Andrew Dyer (left) with Ben Colson

The new boss of the firm that operates the vast majority of West Norfolk’s buses has vowed that passengers will not notice it is in new ownership.

Stagecoach, one of the UK’s largest bus operators, bought Norfolk Green, the award-winning, independent West Norfolk bus operator for an undisclosed sum, on Wednesday. Norfolk Green’s latest set of accounts valued the company’s net worth at £2.4 million.

Andrew Dyer, the Stagecoach chief now at the helm of Norfolk Green, said: “Whilst nothing stays the same forever we are keeping the Norfolk Green brand and identity.

“Our message to our customers is that this is now Norfolk Green with nationwide back-up, not Norfolk Green disappearing and a new firm coming in

“Customers on the street won’t see any difference.”

Mr Dyer was a shareholder in Norfolk Green before the acquisition and has a second home in Wolferton.

He said there is no intention to drop routes, increase ticket costs, outside of the usual annual review and he is even optimistic of preserving a year-round Coasthopper service. Norfolk County Council has plans to end the subsidy of the Lynn to Sheringham route, which has left its future in doubt.

Up to eight of Norfolk Green’s 160 staff could face redundancy due to the change over. Those at risk are in administration and payroll-type rolls, functions that are run centrally by Stagecoach from Manchester.

Mr Dyer said the firm would do what it could to offer alternative positions to those affected.

Ben Colson, outgoing manageing director of Norfolk Green, bought the firm in 1996 and took it from a force of three buses to 70. He made the decision to sell the firm during his recovery from a sudden heart problem this summer, which forced him to take three months off work.

A year-round bus route between Lynn and Sheringham should be able to be saved, the new boss of West Norfolk buses has said.

Andrew Dyer, who took over as managing director of Norfolk Green for Stagecoach this week, said winter cutbacks are likely for the Coasthopper service, but he hoped to keep it alive.

He said: “I am pretty confident that whatever happens there will be an all year round Coasthopper timetable.

“If there were no subsidy in 2017 then the future of the winter service would be questionable, but I think we will be able to work with the county council so it won’t come to that.”

Norfolk County Council has plans to reduce the subsidy offered to the Coasthopper service from £225,000 a year to £75,000 a year by 2016.

Ben Colson, outgoing managing director of Norfolk Green, sold the business to Stagecoach on Tuesday after 17 years, to take early retirement.

The sale came a month after Norfolk Green was named Independent Operator of the Year in the UK Bus Awards. At the same awards Stagecoach was named overall operator of the year.

Mr Colson, who still regularly drove his own buses, was aboard the final service run by Norfolk Green as an independent operator, which pulled into Lynn bus station just before midnight on Tuesday.

Fellow director Keith Shayshutt, who drove the first Norfolk Green service, was at the wheel. Tony Bachelor, the company’s third director and Mr Dyer were also aboard, all of them handing out Quality Streets to passengers.

Mr Colson, of Wolferton, is chairman of the committee that organises the fundraising Wolferton Scarecrow Festival, Sandringham Parish Council and Lynn Business Improvement District steering group. He hopes to continue with consultancy work in the bus trade.

He said walking away from Norfolk Green felt strange, but added: “It is in very safe hands.”

 

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