Saturday, 19 August 2017

Commuter bus in doubt after council cuts £11,500 grant

FUNDING for the commuter bus service between Watlington and Lewknor has been withdrawn.

FUNDING for the commuter bus service between Watlington and Lewknor has been withdrawn.

Oxfordshire County Council has decided not to renew its £11,500 annual subsidy to Go Ride, which operates the service.

An average of 64 passengers a day use the service, which allows people to catch the Oxford Tube.

The service, which was launched in 2008, operates via Shirburn on weekday mornings. An evening service operates on demand.

Danny Douglas, director of Go Ride, said he was disappointed by the council’s decision but hopes his firm can keep the service going.

He said: “Go Ride is working with the community to put a bid in to the county council’s community transport funding pot by the end of the month to ensure continuity of service.”

Watlington Parish Council met Go Ride officials on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of extending the service to make it more financially viable.

Mr Douglas said: “The proposed new scheme will improve accessibility across the Watlington area as well as providing a more appropriate service to the Oxford Tube stop at Lewknor. We will be consulting people in Lewknor, Watlington and Benson on their transport needs to build a more sustainable scheme for the future.”

Ian Hill, chairman of Watlington Parish Council, said: “Go Ride has lots of ideas for a replacement service but these still need to be crystallised.

“We hope we will be able to continue the service but at the moment it’s dependent on various things, funding in particular, and until we know more about that we can’t be too certain.”

Meanwhile, a new bus service will run between Watlington and Oxford from next month.

Thames Travel is scrapping the current 106/106c service and replacing it with the T1 service. The new service will run via Chalgrove and Garsington during morning and evening peak times, with an additional stop at Cowley centre during the day, from May 13.

The current 106/106C service to Oxford does not include a stop at Garsington and stops at the Oxford Science Park before heading into the city. Staff at the science park will now be served by a separate bus, the new T3 service, which will run between the park and Kassam Stadium via the Iffley Road to Oxford city centre and the station.

The new service is similar to the 101 service, which was replaced by the 106/106C service, despite complaints from residents.

Thames Travel general manager John Hammond said the new service would shorten the journey time and be more reliable.

He said: “We’ve listened to customer feedback. We’ve been told that passengers from Watlington, Chalgrove and Garsington want a quicker and more direct service into Oxford at peak times and for shopping and leisure via the Cowley centre at other times.”

Councillor Hill said: “I think some people will be happy and some people won’t be. The changes aren’t going to make a lot of difference to the travel time.

“Personally, I am pretty disappointed by the changes as I use the service to get to the stadium and the sports club there.”

Debbie Davies, a mother-of-three from Cuxham, said: “I am pleased as I thought the previous services were a hotchpotch. Hopefully, the new route will mean an improvement on the service, which will encourage customers back.”

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