Monday, 22 October 2018

Weekday buses cut due to too few users

A BUS operator has cut its services linking Goring, Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill with Reading due to low passenger numbers.

Going Forward, which was set up as a non-profit community venture by Mike Ward last year, will now only run its 142, 145, 146 and 148 routes on Saturdays.

The services will depart from Goring at 10am, 12.55pm and 3pm and from the Tesco superstore at King’s Meadow in Reading at 11.30am, 2pm and 4.15pm, calling at Pangbourne, Whitchurch, Crays Pond, Chazey Heath and Caversham.

Meanwhile, the 134, 142C, 144 and 148 routes from Wallingford to Reading via Goring, Pangbourne, Purley and Tilehurst will run only three times on Sundays, departing from Goring at 10.25am, 12.35pm and 3pm and returning from Blagrave Street in Reading at 11.35am, 1.20pm and 3.55pm.

There will be a fourth bus from Goring to Wallingford, departing at 9.35am and returning at 5pm.

Mr Ward, an accountant, of Elvendon Road, Goring, will review the Saturday services at the end of this year and could make further cuts if they are not breaking even. At the moment, usage is poor in the afternoons.

He says he was losing more than £1,000 a month to run the services during the week, even though he was receiving a subsidy of £300 a month from Goring Heath and Whitchurch parish councils, and could no longer afford this.

The 134 service between Goring and Wallingford, which gets about 80 passengers a day, covers its costs as it falls entirely within Oxfordshire and the county council offers a higher subsidy for elderly bus pass users than Reading Borough Council.

Furthermore, the Reading weekday services were only attracting 25 to 30 passengers a day.

Mr Ward said: “Even a full bus will barely cover the fuel and driver’s salary for journeys from Reading, so imagine how impossible it is when the average usage per journey is less.

“The parish councils’ contributions were very much appreciated but when the service was losing me money personally it just could not carry on. I’m very sorry that it didn’t work out.”

Mr Ward tried to boost passenger numbers by adding a stop at Woodcote, where passengers could board Thames Travel’s services to Oxford, but this didn’t prove to be popular enough.

He may now try to boost passenger numbers by stopping at the almshouses in Goring Heath and would like to reintroduce the buses on Wednesdays.

However, he would need more volunteer drivers and is struggling to recruit them.

Mr Ward said: “Volunteers don’t really want to commit to being available and if I can’t guarantee the reliability of the service I cannot risk it. I will be fined or possibly lose my operator’s licence if I repeatedly have to cancel journeys.”

The 134 remains unaffected as do Going Forward’s 133 bus from Goring to Moulsford, the 137 to Watlington and the 138 to Berinsfield.

For more information or to volunteer as a driver, visit www.goingforwardbuses.com

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