A vital coastal bus service has been saved from threatened cutbacks after a deal to secure its immediate future.
Coasthopper, which carries more than 500,000 passengers a year, will be able to continue its service between Lynn and Cromer until at least Autumn 2015 after a agreement was reached between service provider Norfolk Green and Norfolk County Council.
The service will run half-hourly in the summer and hourly in winter.
There were fears the service could be lost after the authority proposed to cut £75,000 from its £225,000 subsidy in each of the next two years.
But the council yesterday announced that Norfolk Green will operate the profitable summer period without council subsidy, while the council invests in the winter to provide journeys all year.
A council spokesman said it and Norfolk Green’s investment in building the route from scratch in 1996 , has provided the platform for the summer elements to be operated on a commercial basis.
He said the agreement between the two parties – which was finalised following a public consultation over the service in November last year – means the Coasthopper service will continue to run at the current frequency levels all year round until at least autumn 2015, with discussions planned for future developments.
Toby Coke, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, added: “The Coasthopper represents a vital means of transport for many residents in West Norfolk and across the North Norfolk coast, so I’m very pleased that between us and Norfolk Green, we’ve been able to secure its future for the medium term.
“The fact that the county council has managed to make savings in its contribution to the service while allowing the route and frequency of the Coasthopper to remain unaffected for at least another year means this is not just good news for passengers but the Norfolk taxpayer as well.
“Our next step is to investigate viable options to allow the Coasthopper to continue to run beyond autumn 2015 and we are hoping to secure further private investment.” Andrew Dyer, managing director of Norfolk Green, said “Coasthopper is a superb example of partnership working between public and private sectors. The effort and investment put in by both parties since the service started in 1996 has produced the success story that we see today. “I am delighted that we have been able to secure the future of the service with the current summer and winter timetables until late next year and I am confident that the route will have a bright future beyond that.”