Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Councils to help fund bus firm

Councils to help fund bus firm

A COMMUNITY bus company that was founded in Goring is to receive a £2,000 grant from the parish council.

Members agreed to help Going Forward run its services from the village to Reading, as well as other routes across South Oxfordshire, for another year.

The non-profit firm was founded by Mike Ward, of Elvendon Road, Goring, in 2017 as a replacement for the commercial routes which folded after Oxfordshire County Council withdrew all its subsidies.

It has expanded and now also serves Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill, South Stoke, Goring Heath and Crays Pond, Caversham, Woodcote, Checkendon, Stoke Row, Peppard, Watlington and Henley.

But Mr Ward has warned the company is struggling because costs are increasing but passenger numbers aren’t going up. At times he has had to personally pay to keep it afloat.

Chris Bertrand, from South Stoke, is starting a support group which will encourage parish councils along the company’s routes to give subsidies totalling £15,000 a year. Goring is the first to contribute.

The group plans to make money from adverts on the company’s vehicles and grants from South Oxfordshire District Council.

Mr Bertrand said Mr Ward had done a “remarkable job” but couldn’t sustain losses forever.

Kevin Bulmer, who chairs Goring Parish Council, said: “No other parish councils are on board yet but there are lots of communities along the route which benefit from the service and would be first to complain about problems.

“We can’t commit future councils to regular annual payments but I’m very happy to contribute this year and then ask for a bit more information on future applications on how the money has helped.”

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