BUS LATEST: Union demands answers over Stagecoach pullout, but MP ‘confident’ routes will still be covered
Union leaders have demanded answers after Stagecoach revealed it was consulting staff on the potential closure of its Lynn depot.
The company has confirmed it will withdraw services in Norfolk at the end of April, putting the future of much of West Norfolk’s bus network into doubt.
Three operators have already said they are looking at providing alternative services and a local MP says he is confident that the crisis will be resolved.
But the RMT union has slammed the announcement as a “bombshell” and says there are many unanswered questions.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “We are in urgent discussions with Stagecoach after this bombshell announcement which leaves jobs and services in Norfolk hanging by a thread.
“It is essential that Norfolk County Council join us in working to protect these lifeline services to thousands of people across their area.
“Stagecoach has only operated Norfolk bus services since December 2013 and serious questions need to be asked as to exactly what has gone wrong and why.
“Our absolute priority is to protect our members and the lifeline services they provide to the local community and the low income, elderly and vulnerable groups without access to a car who would be condemned to lives of transport poverty if routes are axed.”
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham says he is “deeply concerned” by the Stagecoach announcement, but added: “I am very confident that there will not be any route closures.”
He said he also wanted to hold talks with Norfolk County Council about the possibility of a loan being made available to a new operator which would be repaid when it receives a rebate on fuel duty.
He said: “This would be a simple way of the County Council offering some practical help to save key local services.”
Meanwhile, West Norfolk Community Transport says it is looking at its options and suggested the situation may help them to become more self-sufficient.
The charity is in the process of moving to new offices and says it would welcome enquiries from staff who are unsure of their current situation.
They added: “Whilst there are hurdles still to overcome, we believe that WNCT and local operators with the support of Norfolk County Council, will be able to provide West Norfolk with the services which are expected.”
Earlier today, Lynx confirmed it was also looking at which routes it could potentially take on, though warned services may be reduced in the short term.
Konectbus has also announced plans to begin a new Fakenham to Norwich route in the spring.