By Charles Butcher
Pensioners’ bus passes and other concessionary fares are now valid on the weekday 43 bus service to Norwich that leaves Reepham Market Place at 9.15 am.
Bus operator Sanders Coaches has confirmed to the Town Council that Norfolk County Council has granted a legal dispensation allowing concessionary fares before 9.30 am.
At the beginning of September, an unannounced timetable change by Sanders left Reepham travellers fuming. Bus pass holders found they now had to pay for the first part of their journey, as far as Aylsham.
The Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 allows older and disabled people free off-peak travel on local buses anywhere in England. The law says that “off-peak” means from 9.30 am to 11 pm on weekdays, and all day at weekends and bank holidays.
So the timetable change from 9.30 to 9.15 meant Sanders had to seek special approval from the county council. Without the dispensation, the council would not have reimbursed Sanders for the cost of journeys made by people using bus passes.
To make matters worse, Sanders did not warn travellers in advance of the timetable change, and until a few days ago there was no timetable information in the Market Place.
The county council used to place timetables at bus stops, but have now stopped doing this, according to Town Clerk Jo Boxall. “I received several complaints about this from members of the public,” she said.
Mrs Boxall has placed a timetable on the noticeboard in the Market Place, and said Sanders plans to deliver more copies to the Bircham Centre.
She has spoken to Richard Pengelly, general manager at Sanders, and encouraged Sanders to be more proactive about timetable changes in the future, especially in communicating with bus users who do not have internet access.
The next 43 bus on weekdays is at 10.30 am. On Saturdays, Sanders continues to operate a 43 bus at the original time of 9.30 am.