Transport survey update
Author: Chloe Smith, Updated: 27 April 2023 09:46
At the end of 2022, I surveyed Norwich North constituents to ask for their views on public transport and road conditions. The survey received a range of responses from residents across Norwich North, from localised issues within specific areas, to city-wide problems, county themes and national points.
I know how important public transport is to residents and as your MP, transport has always been one of my priorities.
In particular, I'll focus on roadworks and bus services in this update. I'll carry on working on more in the coming months.
Residents told me they were concerned about the delays caused by roadworks taking place across Norwich, and the congestion that created dangerous traffic conditions for vehicles and cyclists. Residents also said they were not happy about uneven and fractured pavement surfaces that are dangerous to those with disabilities
I have therefore written to Norfolk County Council to highlight the frustrations that have been caused by the large-scale road work projects taking place throughout the city, and I have since received a response from Grahame Bygrave, Director of Highways, Transport & Waste.
I should say, I am proud to have helped secure significant investment into our area from central government, but it's fair to say that actually doing the improvements will always be disruptive! Norfolk County Council explained that recent road work disruption has been caused by the significant amount of investment Norwich is receiving from the government, with projects including the investment from the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), rollout of the Better Broadband scheme, delivery of developer work, utility works which included the unplanned burst water main which closed the Norwich Outer Ring Road for three months, and the Council’s own programme of projects.
The challenge has been the sheer scale of both planned and unplanned emergency works on the network. In the last year alone, the County Council teams have coordinated nearly 8,400 separate permits for work on the highway network in Norwich alone.
Nonetheless, the funding I have secured from the Government to upgrade existing roads and pavements will make sure Norwich roads and pavements are improved.
I will work with the council and others to make the most of this investment, in a common-sense way.
I have also spoken to the relevant councillors to address the concerns with the conditions of pavements. The Government has announced £200 million for highways maintenance this year, and I am pleased that Norfolk has been given £6.4 million for repair work. I encourage residents who have concerns about pavements and potholes to report these using the Norfolk County Council online tool here, or to contact their local County Council representative who can be found on the Norfolk County Council website.
Bus service provisions
Bus services are essential to many residents, and part of Norwich’s economic sustainability and connectivity. Most residents use the available bus services for work commitments and access to the city centre, and I have written to bus operators and local authorities highlighting the need for services that constituents can rely on.
I am pleased to see local bus operators Konectbus introduce route 11C that will provide a new city centre route for residents in Sprowston. Conservative Councillors in Thorpe St Andrews have successfully campaigned for additional late-night services across the city, including routes 5B, 8 and 11A. More services will also be provided on routes 11B and 6, there is a new ‘Canary Konect’ route (35) between Carrow Road and The Nest, stopping at Norwich train station and the airport. I am optimistic that these additions will ease residents' concerns about a lack of frequency and late-night services.
The Government Bus Fare Cap scheme successfully reduced the cost of fares to £2 and has been extended until the end of June. However, I recognise that this isn’t a long-term solution and remain committed to working on improving the affordability of transport services in and out of the constituency. I welcome the announcement by First Eastern Counties and Norfolk County Council on the investment of 70 zero-emission buses using £14.7 million of funding from Government, County and private investment. A further 57 fast chargers will be installed at the Roundtree Way First Bus depot and all diesel infrastructure removed, making it one of the first fully electric bus depots outside of London
This will improve the air quality on the bus routes, and I hope will see fares remain affordable for residents as we transition away from fossil fuels to electrical charging. Residents expressed their views across other issues including cycle lanes, post-pandemic travel patterns and train services.
The response to cycle lanes was mixed, although the majority of residents stated that the cycling lanes were average. Some residents suggested that cycle lanes could have clearer signage and improved visibility, but most were pleased with the city-wide improvements. Since the pandemic, changing travel patterns has meant that Norwich residents work from home more often. However, some residents said that working from home was normal in their workplace before the pandemic. Several residents also commented they are using more outdoor travel including walking and cycling.
Residents were pleased about the cleanliness and improved design of the new train carriage which I helped to secure through £1.4bn of government investment into our regional mainline. I understand concerns raised about the rising cost of train fares nationally and will remain on the case in Parliament to encourage a system where train fares stay affordable.
I will continue to work for residents to make sure public transport providers are delivering the efficient and reliable services Norwich North residents expect and deserve.