Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Teenager starts petition against village bus cuts

Teenager starts petition against village bus cuts

A TEENAGER says cuts to bus services in Peppard will reduce his independence.

Cameron Towers, 16, uses Reading Buses’ “pink” 25 service to Reading to visit friends.

The bus is the only public transport which links the village with the town but from Monday the company is to reduce the off-peak Monday to Saturday daytime service from every 30 minutes to once an hour and the Sunday service from hourly to once every two hours.

The weekday morning and evening peak time services will remain half hourly and a double-decker will also run on the busiest services.

The bus travels between Reading station and the Unicorn pub in Peppard via Emmer Green and stops at 11 places in Peppard and Sonning Common.

Cameron, a student at Pangbourne College, has started a petition calling for the service to remain as it is and has collected 700 signatures.

He said: “One of the biggest reasons for starting a campaign was because I use the bus very often to go to the shops and to see friends in Reading. I would be heavily impacted by these cuts as, with no car of my own, I lose my sense of freedom and independence.

“I can also easily sympathise with other groups in the community whose livelihood depends on public transport.”

Cameron has written to Tony Pettitt, interim chief executive of Reading Buses, which is owned by Reading Borough Council.

His letter includes suggestions on how to keep the service going, including reducing the number of stops and promoting buses over other forms of transport.

Cameron said there should have been more public consultation on the changes.

He said: “The fact Reading Buses is, in essence, publicly funded, makes it hard to see why it failed to hold a second public consultation for a second round of changes.

“I felt I had to start this petition because the bus network is in public ownership. Buses should be there to serve the communities they go through and I do not believe these changes are in anyone’s interests.

“I feel there are many things Reading Buses has not yet tried with regards to how it operates its buses and slashing services appears to be the easy way out of running at a loss.

“You can see the negative effect that taking bus services away has had on many other UK towns but the difference elsewhere is that bus companies are privately-owned, looking to make the greatest profit margin possible. I fear Reading may be heading in that direction.

“As of now, Reading has a bus network that the town can boast about and a big reason for this is because services are run by a council-owned organisation.

“I fear this is the start of a vicious circle, where after cuts are made fewer people use the bus, meaning smaller passenger numbers and then further cuts rather than the growth Reading Buses has promised us.

“Stopping these cuts is a big part of breaking the vicious circle, which has led to the deterioration of many private bus companies across the UK and of bus travel in general. It is no coincidence that passenger numbers for UK buses are falling year on year.”

Reading Buses says the changes are necessary due to growing challenge with its network, especially with congestion, and a “challenging” financial position due to increased costs and loss of revenue caused by factors such as less footfall in the town centre.

A company spokesman said: “It’s important that we run a network that is as punctual and reliable as possible but is also cost-effective within our self-funding means.

“Following the major consultation exercise undertaken for our Caversham routes at the end of last year, it is disappointing that the expected levels of growth, where services were maintained or indeed enhanced, has not materialised and these routes remain challenging to sustain, a situation that is further compounded by the costly effects of congestion.

“It is nearly six months since we made the last changes and it is regrettable that we are being forced to revisit some of these services.”

To sign the petition, visit www.change.org/p/reading-buses-stop-crippling-caversham-cuts

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