Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Buses funding extension

PUBLIC funding for four bus routes linking Henley town centre with its outlying residential areas is set to continue.

Henley Town Council provides a monthly subsidy of £1,500 towards Whites Coaches’ 151 to 154 services, which is due to end in June.

On Tuesday the council’s town and community committee recommended that this is extended to the end of the year, saying the company needed more time to draw up a plan to make the routes commercially viable.

The services used to be funded by Oxfordshire County Council until it axed all its bus subsidies a year ago, which put them at risk as they currently run at a loss.

When the cuts were announced in late 2015, the town council agreed to make up the shortfall on a temporary basis. It then set up a bus working group to identify a long-term solution.

The group has appointed Hudson Transport Planning, a consultantcy, to work with Whites to devise ways of increasing passenger numbers and increase revenue.

A final strategy will be presented to the council next month. Suggestions could include extending the routes to call at Townlands Hospital, the Tesco store or Henley station.

Hudson claims the services could survive on a monthly subsidy of £750, which Whites disputes.

Last month Whites offered a week’s free travel on its 151 to 154 services in the hope of boosting passenger numbers. It needed an extra 75 passengers a day to turn a profit but only attracted about 30 more.

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes said: “I’m very keen to keep the services going.”

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