Saturday, 23 September 2017

New bus service in need of drivers

A NEW bus route from Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill to Reading could be launched.

Volunteer drivers are being sought for the service, which would be run on a non-profit basis by community operator Going Forward and would replace the existing Thames Travel 143 bus.

The 143 has been partly funded by Whitchurch and Goring Heath parish councils since Oxfordshire County Council withdrew all its bus subsidies in April.

Thames Travel says the final leg of the route between Pangbourne and Whitchurch Hill cannot survive on a commercial basis because too few people use it. Many of those who do are elderly or disabled.

The parish councils agreed to increase their share of council tax by the maximum legal amount to keep the bus going but there would still be a shortfall.

Going Forward’s owner Mike Ward believes the service would be viable if it didn’t have to make a profit.

He has not yet committed to taking over but is in talks with various parish councils about possible routes and funding.

Depending on the outcome, the new 143 could also serve Goring and Crays Pond and there could also be occasional excursions to Henley and Greys Court.

Mr Ward, of Elvendon Road, Goring, said: “I can’t say it’s definitely going ahead but it’s pretty likely, depending largely on suitable drivers coming forward.

“There’s still a bit of a debate over timings and destinations but I want to establish whether anyone is available because it won’t get off the ground otherwise.”

Last month Going Forward took over the former Go Ride 134 service from Goring to Wallingford via South Stoke.

Go Ride, which had run it on a non-profit basis since 2012, backed out of its Oxfordshire operations to focus on Essex.

The 134 previously terminated at the village station but now continues in a loop to the bottom of High Street.

The company has also launched a new 133 service, which serves Moulsford and Streatley on Fridays.

Mr Ward said: “It has been going really well. We’re seeing some new faces on board and passenger numbers are generally up so we’re very happy.

“It’s great that the community has got behind it so enthusiastically.”

For more information about volunteering, call 07484 605888 or email 
littlebluebus@yahoo.com

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