Prompted by a comment from Debra regarding the limited public transport in Southern California I thought a brief visit to the wilds of North Norfolk to show another side of Public Transport in the UK was in order.

Providing a bus service in sparsely populated areas such as North Norfolk is always going to be difficult as the returns are unlikely to make the service cost effective. Yet a public service of some sort needs to be provided as the population is often elderly and without their own means of transport. Back in the 1980’s the Eastern Counties bus company working with the local council, came up with an innovative solution to the problem – provide a vehicle and let volunteer members of the community drive it to provide the service. Communities were provided with a minibus at a secure location which then operated a set of routes specified by the company on each day of the week with a single journey each way. The unpaid drivers collected the fares which went back to the bus company to cover the fuel and maintenance costs of the vehicle. The company also provided training and medicals for the volunteer drivers.

The scheme was altered in 2001 when the bus was replaced by a Dial-a-Ride service provided by the local council. Still following the same routes, passengers intending to travel now call the day before to book collection from their front door.

Signpost
A signpost on the outskirts of Briningham with the names of several villages served by the Sharrington Community Bus.

Sharrington Community Bus
The Sharrington Community Bus on its Thursday run to Fakenham for the market in 1993. Having started at Sharrington and passed through Thornage, Brinton and Burgh Stubbs it is seen in Briningham where it will collect passengers waiting on the corner (including me!).

Gunthorpe
Cottages in the Village of Gunthorpe, the next stop along the route from Briningham.

Volunteer Driver
The Volunteer Driver concentrates on the road ahead as the bus heads for the next village.

Drop Off
A 2008 view of the Dial-a-Ride service in Burgh Stubbs – the driver helps an elderly passenger with her shopping.