Sunday, 06 December 2020

Commuter bus under threat from council subsidy review

A COMMUTER bus service in Watlington could be scrapped.

A COMMUTER bus service in Watlington could be scrapped.

The shuttle service, which takes people to Lewknor to catch the Oxford Tube, is one of several services included in a consultation exercise being carried out by Oxfordshire County Council.

The council wants to gauge he effect on passengers if the service was terminated.

The service, which was launched in 2008, is operated by Go Ride but receives an annual subsidy of £11,500 from the council.

An average of 64 passengers a day use the service, which operates via Shirburn on weekday mornings. An evening service operates on demand.

Danny Douglas, director of Go Ride, wants the council to continue supporting the service, which he wants to extend.

He said: “Without the funding that would be it for the service but we hope that the council will at least let us carry on. This would allow us to start a proper dialogue with the parishes about the future.

“If we could get a cheaper, greener vehicle, we would be able to develop the service. We would like to see whether we can include some of the other villages.”

Ian Hill, chairman of Watlington Parish Council, said: “We hope the service won’t go away and our aim at the moment is to make sure it survives.

“It’s reasonably well used but it could be better used as I know from my own experience from when I used to go into London reasonably regularly. I could use the shuttle bus to get there in the morning but the problem was I couldn’t get back after lunch so I would end up taking the car. If there were more hours available it would be more commercially viable. The intention will be to try to make it more responsive to what people’s needs are. Extending the hours would make it a more expensive service but it would give it more chance of being commercially viable.”

The parish council has previously asked Go Ride to add services to Heathrow and villages including Christmas Common and Cookley Green as well as a route for walkers using the Icknield Way and more flexible trips to Thame market.

David Cook, parish transport representative for Benson, said he had not received any feedback from residents regarding the service, although several people had contacted him with general comments about parking issues in Lewknor.

“There is a desperate need for a car park there- it’s awful,” he said. “There is certainly a case for Oxfordshire County Council or somebody else putting their hands in their pockets and buying a stretch of the field adjoining the B4009.” Watlington residents criticised the county council’s decision to fund the Go Ride service after it ceased to subsidise the 101 bus from Watlington to Oxford.

This was replaced with the 106 service, which doesn’t include Cowley centre, where many residents do their shopping.

A county council spokesman said: “We are carrying out a routine review of the Lewknor Taxibus service, which provides a peak-hour link between Watlington and the Oxford Tube service at Lewknor.

“This is standard procedure when any subsidised bus contract is due for renewal and in this case the current agreement ends in June.

“Many villages in South Oxfordshire have been consulted as part of the review process and a decision on future subsidy for this service will be made later this month. Affected parishes will be notified of the outcome of the decision.”

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