What a pleasant surprise to hear that the Coasthopper bus service, which has been threatened with closure in the winter months, is not only to continue, but will actually be expanding.
Instead of the feared winter closedown which has been hanging like a dark cloud over the service in recent times, there will actually be increased winter services, stepping up from hourly to half-hourly buses between Lynn and Hunstanton, with the bonus of it now calling in Heacham village at certain times, saving locals the bother of walking up to the main road.
It’s a triumph not only for Norfolk Green, who have run the service with support from Norfolk County Council over the years, but for the many local residents along the coastal route who have used the service regularly and demonstrated the need for such a service.
Indeed, it has become a vital lifeline for many people in an area which has always lagged a bit in transport links. The irony is that the remoteness and unspoilt beauty of parts of North Norfolk are the very things we treasure most about the area, but make life difficult for anyone who does not own a car, and there are a surprisingly large number of people who do not.
While Coasthopper may have been in danger of winter closure in recent years, particularly during the recession and subsequent cuts in council spending, I feel it has a really positive future, and not only because of support from people along the route.
I live in South Wootton, and occasionally use the Coasthopper as a rapid alternative when returning home from trips into Lynn, as it travels down the northern bypass rather than taking the longer round-the-houses route of local Wootton services.
On occasions in the summer months it was noticeable, when the bus called at Lynn railway station before heading down the bypass, that there were groups of day-trippers, presumably from Downham and Cambridge, all heading to the coast.
Similarly, it was easy to spot the keen walkers, with their boots, backpacks and waterproof outdoor garb, using the Coasthopper. The big attraction for many walkers is that, in some areas, the bus route follows the coastal path, and it is possible to plan a route from one bus stop to another along the path, rather than having to either retrace your steps on the same route or find a circular walk.
I can see more people from Lynn using the service simply to avoid the hassle of parking in places like Burnham Market.
While the provision of a much-needed car park in Burnham Market may ease the situation to some degree, the volume of cars in the coastal area on popular summer weekends seems almost boundless and is definitely getting worse.
At Wells, concerns have been raised that parking resources are stretched to bursting point and people have had days out spoiled by not being able to find anywhere to leave their cars.
All this makes the Coasthopper appear an enticing alternative, with prospects for further new services to come.