It does not seem very long ago since I was commenting on how well South Wootton is catered for by local bus services... which was perhaps a big mistake as I appear to have been tempting fate.
While much of rural Norfolk (as readers continually remind me) struggles to cope with a very limited bus service, that was not the case for the Woottons – until the Dersingham Bus Wars broke out between Norfolk Green and Lynx.
Norfolk Green had until recently operated all the bus services between Lynn and Hunstanton, via Dersingham, but is now faced with competition from Lynx, a new company in the area.
Lynx also runs services between Lynn and Hunstanton, and its big selling point is speedier services on the section of the route from Dersingham into Lynn.
Norfolk Green have hit back by axing their Number 11 service between Lynn and Hunstanton, via South Wootton and Castle Rising, and replacing it with the Number 12, which goes from Lynn, through South Wootton and Castle Rising, but then only as far as Dersingham and Sandringham before heading back to Lynn.
At a stroke, it means that bus passengers in the Castle Rising Road area of South Wootton and in Castle Rising, no longer have a regular route to Hunstanton, as they can only get as far as Dersingham on the Number 12.
And for much of the day the Number 12 enters and exits Lynn via the Northern bypass, rather than Wootton Road, meaning there are no bus services between Marsh Lane and The Deers Leap.
Arguably, there are other services to Hunstanton via South Wootton, but they are far from convenient for less mobile older passengers.
The new services have also hit holidaymakers at the Sandringham Caravan Site. Motor caravan owners tend to park at a site and use public transport to explore their holiday area, rather than continually packing up and driving around (camper vans are often excluded from public car parks by height barriers).
The Number 11 service used to call at the Sandringham Visitor Centre, providing caravan site users with a bus route to Hunstanton, but this has been lost – something that many regular patrons using the Sandringham site will not be aware of until they arrive. Indeed, I have already heard of one instance of this happening.
Norfolk Green has a pretty good record of customer service in past years. It was named UK Bus Operator of the Year in 2010, and its former boss, Ben Colson, has just been awarded an MBE for services to the economy and Norfolk in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Perhaps Stagecoach, owners of Norfolk Green since 2013, will take note of the company’s worthy past record and heed the growing chorus of disaffection at what seems a poorly thought-out response to their competitors. If they don’t, their rivals may step in and capitalise.