A West Norfolk charity is investing £1m into launching new bus services which will save threatened routes in King’s Lynn and plough funds back into the community.
West Norfolk Community Transport Ltd (WNCT), which already runs the Go to Town service for rural areas, is to take over some of the threatened Stagecoach routes.
It will also provide a new route serving homes in North Lynn’s Orchard Place once the development has been completed.
The charity along, with Saddlebow-based operator Lynx and Norfolk-based Sanders Coaches, formed a rescue package announced two weeks ago in the wake of Stagecoach’s decision to pull out of Lynn.
Stagecoach blamed its move, which has placed 120 jobs in jeopardy, on the “challenging economic environment”.
The investment by WNCT will be spent on a new depot, offices and maintenance area at Lynn’s Oldmedow Road on the Hardwick Industrial Estate.
The charity has also purchased nine full-sized buses, seven of which are new, to run Stagecoach’s town routes 2 to 5, from Sunday, April 29.
It has also pledged to plough money made over and above operational costs, back into providing specialist dial-a-bus routes for residents unable to use current transport due to mobility problems or where there is no service.
Howard Russell, the charity’s chief executive, described it as an “unprecedented investment” and said the vehicles would bring a major boost for the town’s air quality with their latest engine technology.
“This is good news for the whole town. It makes a real step forward to dealing with air quality issues and it is good news too because it will help fund our charitable aims and objectives,” he said.
Under WNCT operation, bus route 2 (North Lynn) and 3 (South and North Wootton) will both run every half-hour, six days a week but less frequently on Sunday.
Route 4 will be diverted via North Lynn and Lynnsport Way and run up to half-hourly intervals. This new route will provide an extra bus an hour for parts of North Lynn and serve the new Orchard Place development.
Mr Russell said the investment would only work if the plans encouraged passengers to use buses and in turn, reduce congestion on the roads.
He added: “It is not good news for anybody to be sitting in the routinely grid-locked traffic around the town centre and especially not for us to invest to stand still.”
Mr Russell has called on both Norfolk county and West Norfolk borough councils to take action to improve town centre congestion.
He said “bold and radical steps” needed to be taken to end the current traffic problems which have been described as “strangling the town centre’s economy”.
Mr Russell said a range of bus fares would be available. Some might be higher than Stagecoach prices, but he said he hoped available discounts would attract new users to the services.
Timetables and ticket prices can be found at www.wnct.co.uk or on the charity’s Facebook page. A new Go to Town website is also set to be launched with further routes and timetables.