Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Bus service is cut due to lack of passengers

A LOSS-MAKING bus service from Goring to Reading is to be reduced in frequency due to low passenger numbers.

The 142, which serves Whitchurch, Whitchurch Hill, Goring Heath and Caversham, will run only one return journey on weekday mornings and another leaving Reading just after 5pm from the beginning of August.

All services between those times are to be scrapped, although off-peak Saturday services will continue.

Going Forward, a not-for-profit company which started the service last year, says it can no longer afford the “substantial” losses.

Instead, the current driver and bus are set to be used on a new daily service to Watlington via Wallingford, Shillingford Hill caravan park, Benson, Ewelme and Chalgrove.

This service, which is still subject to the approval of the Government’s traffic commissioner and Oxfordshire County Council, would be timed to connect with Thames Travel’s T1 buses between Chalgrove and Oxford.

Mike Ward, director of Going Forward, says the 142 costs about £200 a day but average income from both cash fares and payments through the county council’s concessionary pass scheme is less than a third of that.

He said: “I am very sorry that the service hasn’t attracted anywhere near enough passengers to make it viable. It’s a case of ‘use it or lose it’.

“The new Watlington and Chalgrove service is an attempt to find gaps in services that could attract enough passengers to be sustainable. Linking up with Thames Travel’s buses at Chalgrove, together with the service to Benson and Wallingford, gives Watlington residents a choice of off-peak services into and out of the town. I do hope that people will use it as I don’t want it to also end up facing the axe.”

Mr Ward, from Goring, set up the company after the county council axed all its bus subsidies in 2016 to save money. The 142 replaced a section of Thames Travel’s 143 route from Whitchurch Hill to Reading which was scrapped following the cuts.

Going Forward also rescued the 134 from Goring to Wallingford via North and South Stoke, which was previously run by non-profit operator Go Ride, and has since launched a number of new routes linking Goring to surrounding villages.

Mr Ward said: “Despite the bad news, the new routes are generally doing well and the Goring to Wallingford route is proving popular. We’re actually looking to expand some services as we’re very encouraged by the number of people using them.”

Meanwhile, two new benches have been installed outside Goring station following an 18-month campaign by Mr Ward.

He came up with the idea as most of Going Forward’s routes depart from the station and he wanted to make it more comfortable for elderly people to wait.

Great Western Railway gave the all-clear for the £700 seats, which have been bolted into their concrete bases to deter theft.

They are dedicated to Mr Ward’s parents Dorothy and Stanley, who lived in the village for more than 55 years and were regular users of the bus service in their later years.

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