A LATE-NIGHT bus service will operate again during this year’s Henley Royal Regatta.
Reading Transport has agreed to run a total of 16 buses on Friday and Saturday, June 29 and 30.
Each night, six buses will run to Reading, one to High Wycombe and one to Twyford. There will also be two stand-by buses each night.
The service costs £6,700, which includes four inspectors and two engineers, but last year only £3,090 was raised by the £5 fares.
The remainder was paid by Henley Town Council, Wokingham Borough Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and the royal regatta.
The bus scheme, which was introduced last year, was discussed at a meeting at Henley town hall this week about issues surrounding the regatta.
Norman Fryer-Scott, of Reading Transport, reported that last year the High Wycombe Friday service was empty and only 10 people travelled on the 90-seat bus on Saturday night.
Twenty people travelled to Twyford on the Friday but the Saturday service saw a considerable increase.
Mr Fryer-Scott said: “When you do something for the first time and it is not a rip-roaring success the last thing you do is take it away straight away.
“People need to get used to it being there and we intend to operate the same service without any change.
“Advertising the service is a joint effort but as this activity is not a part of the regatta it does not feature in the publicity.”
Regatta secretary Daniel Grist replied: “We did put it on our website and with our travel information. It is in everyone’s interest to give it as good a test as possible.” Mr Grist said he was concerned that the service was not totally self-funding.
He said: “It was all about getting the first year on track then seeing if it could be self-funded and work. Also, the cost does not seem to have been addressed.
“Other than the authorities, Henley Royal Regatta is the only one putting money in to this. We said if it was not a success we would underwrite some of the losses but we are not any closer to deciding if it was a success.”
Mark Redfearn, community safety manager at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “One of our key aims is to get people away from the regatta site so they get home safely and quickly without disturbing residents.
“Making the service self-financing is the correct longer-term goal but to encourage people to use it is the primary focus at the moment.”
Mr Redfearn confirmed that the borough council would be prepared to contribute £2,000.
Devinia Hudson, of the Copas Partnership, which owns much of the land where visitors watch the action, said the company would not be contributing to the cost.
She said: “We looked at the buses but it is a good mile walk from where we are. If all the licensees contributed then we would be happy to.”
She added: “We promoted the scheme on our website.”
Henley Mayor Pam Phillips said: “The hope is that the buses will be successful and none of the people willing to come forward will be required to do so again.”
Councillor Jeni Wood said she thought the single fare fee of £5 was too low and it should probably be £10. She said: “I think when people have spent a lot of money on the day then £10 is nothing, it is just an extra.”
Mr Fryer-Scott replied: “My only concern is that while we may want to raise the fare to have an increase in money raised, after 12 months that may be unacceptable to some.”
Insp Mark Harling, head of Henley police, said: “We would be very keen for the buses to continue. I think they were a factor in the low levels of crime and antisocial behaviour last year.
“The licensees are rather up against it financially so I can see why they did not contribute last year.”
Insp Harling vowed to make people aware of the bus service through Pubwatch and to encourage police officers to funnel people towards the bus stops.