Monday, 21 June 2021

Residents fight to stop cuts to vital bus service

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to stop cuts to an “essential” bus service serving Watlington.

The T1 connects the town with Oxford, Cowley, Garsington and Chinnor but is set to be reduced from July 23 with less than half as many buses to and from the town.

Under the new service, which is operated by Thames Travel, it will no longer run to Chinnor but will go into the centre of Oxford instead of only going as far as Templar Square.

The peak time service will be similar but there will be only one off-peak service in each direction, leaving Watlington library at 9.20am and returning from St Aldates at 12.35pm.

Between 9.20am and 4.25pm on weekdays there will be no buses from the town to Oxford, while the Saturday service will be reduced from an hourly to a two-hourly service.

Parish councillor Terry Jackson has started a petition on the change.org website opposing the changes.

She said: “As this is a rural community, many residents are extremely dependent upon the bus service. It is their means to obtain and retain employment. It is their means to get to the major shopping centre of Oxford and for many young people to get to college in Oxford.

“There are few employment opportunities in Watlington and no sixth form college so reducing the bus services can drastically change people’s lives. Please reconsider the proposed changes.”

Mrs Jackson, who doesn’t drive, added: “Public transport is really important and I think the buses in Watlington are pretty dire and now they are going to get worse and it’s going to affect a lot of people.

“The buses aren’t very full at the moment, I would say, but I think that’s because it’s such a sparse service.

“The bus company should be trying to improve it rather than reduce it.”

Other residents have voiced their concerns on the website.

Caroline Lye said: “I’m signing [the petition] because rural communities are gradually losing their amenities and without good public transport they will become isolated.”

Debbie Procter said: “Watlington needs buses for the minority with no alternative means of getting to jobs, college or visiting friends.”

Thames Travel pointed out that Oxfordshire County Council had withdrawn all bus service subsidies, other than those linked to funding from new developments, a year ago.

Managing director Phil Southall said: “Thames Travel has served the communities of South Oxfordshire for almost 20 years. For the most part, this has been through strong partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and its provision of subsidies to routes which otherwise would not be commercially viable.

“After the withdrawal of these subsidies in July 2016 we took a considerable risk with many services, amending them to improve efficiency in the hope of maintaining them. Unfortunately, after nearly a year, some of these services are still operating at a substantial loss which we regrettably cannot continue to absorb.”

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