Friday, 24 September 2021

Bus routes changed again to cut costs

A SERIES of changes to bus timetables in Caversham will be introduced from the beginning of next month.

Reading Buses said these were necessary as the town’s bus network faced growing challenges, especially with congestion.

This was compounded by a “challenging” financial position with increased costs as well as revenue being affected by factors such as reduced town centre footfall.

The changes to routes serving Caversham, which will begin on September 3, will affect the Red 22 and Pink 23 and 24 routes.

The Red 22 route will revert back to being “Pink 22” and will no longer run beyond central Reading to Lower Earley.

There will be an improved peak time service Monday to Friday but the Sunday service will become every two hours due to low usage.

Earlier this year residents took part in a demonstration against cuts to this service, saying that almost a quarter of buses would vanish.

The company combined the service between Caversham Heights and Reading town centre with the number 19 serving Lower Earley.

The new route, which was rebranded Red 22 to avoid confusion with the “Pink” services serving Caversham exclusively, had continued south beyond the Royal Berkshire Hospital to Asda in Chalfont Way, Earley.

The Pink 23 and 24 — now known as “Berry 23/24” — will remain but with the timetable reduced from three to two buses each hour to allow more time for buses to complete their journeys and be more reliable.

Both the inner and outer loops will still combine to offer up to four buses per hour, from alternate sides of the road, across most stops.

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.”

Reading East MP Matt Rodda said: “Buses are a lifeline for many people, particluarly older and disabled people, families, young people and commuters.

“I am going to work with Reading Buses, councillors, residents’ associations and the Concerned of Caversham campaign group, to consider other ways of protecting services and reinstating those which have been lost.”

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