Stagecoach calls it a day in Norfolk and plans withdrawal

The future of rural bus networks has been called into question with news of the latest operator to make a large-scale withdrawal. Stagecoach plans to close its leased King’s Lynn depot, effectively cutting most of its Norfolk network, including the town’s services.

It runs 50 vehicles and employs 120 staff, who have been offered posts in Cambridge and Peterborough under a 90-day consultation. The closure is expected to happen by the end of the financial year on 30 April. No routes have yet been de-registered.

It follows retrenchment last year by Go-Ahead in Norfolk and Suffolk, culminating in the merger of its Konectbus and Anglian Bus businesses in an effort to stem losses.

Previously, First withdrew from King’s Lynn local services, with its X1 Norwich-Peterborough service being the only survivor.

It is four years since Stagecoach bought Go West Travel, trading as Norfolk Green, whose flagship service is the King’s Lynn-Cromer Coasthopper service. In April 2016 the route was relaunched with new Euro 6 buses and a revised livery.

This followed the decision by Stagecoach to operate the route commercially. Previously it had been contracted during the winter, but when competitor Lynx won the winter services tender, Stagecoach decided to take on all services.

Lynx, run by former Konectbus founders, already runs from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton, along with other local services and says it will examine opportunities. West Norfolk Community Transport, which runs 54 minibuses under Section 22 permits, serving villages and towns, has made a similar statement.

At the other end of the network, both Go-Ahead and First have announced their intention to run services on the Fakenham-Norwich route. It is thought that Stagecoach will continue to run some routes to Wisbech and March from its Long Sutton and Ely depots.