Saturday, 28 November 2020

MP: cuts to bus services will hit children and elderly

BUSES serving Caversham could lose up to 12 stops under a proposed shake-up.

Reading Buses wants to axe its number 24 service and redirect the 22 and 25 buses along parts of its old route in a bid to save money.

The company, which is owned by Reading Borough Council, says the services made a “substantial” loss last year. The diversions to the 22 and 25 would mean most, but not all, stops along the old 24 route would still be covered but some stops on the other two services would be withdrawn.

Reading Buses is consulting on the proposals until the end of this month and could roll out the changes early next year. A spokesman said: “We’re committed to offering the best possible service and reinvesting our profits to enhance services.

“There are times when routes aren’t performing as they should and we need to ensure they at least cover their cost or are improving. Services in Caversham have long under-
performed and various cost increases, such as fuel and insurance, mean we are no longer able to maintain them in their current format.

“This [proposal] is designed to bolster or kick-start services in areas of growth while pursuing some efficiencies to reduce costs and improve the services’ financial performance.” The company also says the services would be better timed to coincide with departures from Reading station and the vehicles could be upgraded.

But Reading East MP Matt Rodda has expressed concern as the 22 would lose a stop near Beechwood Grove, an extra care housing complex for the elderly which is currently being built in Albert Road to replace the former Arthur Clark care home.

He says pensioners and families with children who live near the threatened stops may struggle to reach the alternatives.

More than 150 people attended a meeting he organised at Highdown School on Monday.

They shared their concerns with Reading Buses’ chief finance officer Tony Pettitt, non-executive director Councillor Jane Stanford-Beale and borough councillors Richard Davies and David Stevens.

Mr Rodda said: “It was an excellent meeting, which I believe went really well. Having heard the many worries from constituents, I look forward to assembling their concerns into a detailed letter which I will prepare and write to Reading Buses.

“Some very valid issues have been raised and I hope to give further feedback to the constituency once I have received a response.

“I am particularly concerned about the potential effect on children and elderly people but would also like to raise concerns about the potential impact on many other bus users, including families and commuters.

“However, I do welcome the proposals for some extra buses in the evening.

“Reading Buses is one of the best bus companies in the country and I hope our outstanding publicly-owned service will listen to the concerns of its loyal passengers.”

For more information or to respond, visit www.reading and search for “consultation”.

The 24 currently leaves Reading station and crosses Caversham Bridge before heading up Hemdean Road then turning right up Rotherfield Way. It then follows a loop around Emmer Green via Evesham Road, Grove Road, Kidmore End Road, Courtenay Drive and Peppard Road before returning.

Under the proposals the number 25, which currently goes up Prospect Street then joins Peppard Road and drives directly to Sonning Common via Emmer Green, would be diverted to cover this northerly loop but the stop in Rotherfield Way, which is on a steep hill, would no longer be served.

The 25 would also be redirected via Caversham Bridge and the shops in Church Street instead of crossing Reading Bridge and joining Prospect Street via Gosbrook Road.

The number 22, which travels to the bottom of Hemdean Road then follows a circuit around Caversham Heights, would increase in frequency from every half-hour to every 20 minutes and the fleet would be upgraded to double-deckers. However, the Caversham Heights circuit would become smaller.

At the moment it turns left off Hemdean Road, up Priest Hill, then proceeds along The Mount and Albert Road and turns into Kidmore Road via Uplands Road before heading back along Shepherds Lane, Woodcote Way, Upper Woodcote Road and Highmoor Road.

Instead, it would go further up Hemdean Road, turn left into Oakley Road and right into Albert Road then perform a smaller loop omitting Priest Hill, The Mount and the lower half of Albert Road.

The stops that would be withdrawn are Priest Hill, The Mount, Highmoor Road/Albert Road, Harrogate Road, Highmoor Road Church, Darrell Road, Blenheim Road, St Anne’s Well, Rotherfield Way, Southdown Road, The Pond (Buckingham Driver) and Kiln Road (northbound).

Reading Buses says alternative stops are within a few minutes’ walk amd its 23 route, which connects Reading town centre with Caversham Park, would be increased to a half-hourly frequency in the evenings while the 27 and 29 serving Lower Caversham would be merged into a single loop travelling anti-clockwise and clockwise respectively.

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