Parties pledge to work together to fix bus problems
RESIDENTS, councillors and the local MP gathered in Woodley on Saturday morning to discuss the future of the area’s bus service.
Hundreds of people filled The Oakwood Centre, in Headley Road, to have their voices heard on the service, which has seen routes between Woodley, north Earley and Reading cut in recent months.
Representatives from all three main political parties, along with local activists, were present for the discussion, but representatives from Wokingham Borough Council and Reading Buses were not present.
MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda (Labour) opened the proceedings by saying that bus services were under threat across the local area.
He said: “I have elderly parents who rely on the buses, and know a number of elderly people for whom the buses are a lifeline. It is also true for those who not only choose not to drive, but also those who can no longer drive for medical reasons. For them, the buses are a vital lifeline and an important part of everyday life.
“I’m a great supporter of the concept of having affordable public transport, and I hope we can find ways to continue the very valuable services we’ve got in this area, and in particular the ones that are under threat.
“I hope that we can provide some very helpful suggestions to the bus company and to Wokingham Borough Council which will cause a rethink, and certainly that seems to be the process that is happening elsewhere.
Councillor for South Lake, Beth Rowland (Liberal Democrats), said the timings of the new services, especially the number 12, weren’t sufficient to meet the needs of the users.
She said: “Public transport enables residents to get where they want to go, and for us I think that’s the shops, both in Woodley and Reading, the doctors surgeries and the hospital to fulfil our needs. We need a service that is frequent enough to mean that we can arrive at appointments on time, and then frequent enough to get us back home in a reasonable time.
“I took my granddaughter to the Royal Berkshire Hospital four or five weeks ago for an appointment, but there was no bus from Woodley for us to get there, so I took my car and drove around for a good half-an-hour looking for a parking space, not only a disabled parking space, which I could have used, but any parking space, and that really isn’t good enough for us.”
Representing Woodley Town Council, Cllr Keith Baker (Conservative) said that the number 12 service was ‘not fit for purpose’.
He said: “Woodley Town Council has been working with Earley Town Council on this issue for a number of months to provide a joint submission on the consultation. We involved two major residents’ associations, ACER and MERA, and we organised an on-board survey which monitored passengers getting on and off, where they got on, and where they travelled to.
“The best way of fighting this is through evidence, and the data collected here today will go towards that.”
Residents Shirley Boyt and Angie Burnish, who started their own survey of local residents, said that when the bus service goes out to tender at the end of the current contract, the companies need to show bus users that their service does exactly what they need it to do.
Ms Burnish said: “Through the responses we have received, lots of you go to lots of different places which is great, but getting to and from the hospital was the one thing that was most common to everybody. This was anecdotal before, but now we have the figures.”
Wokingham Borough Council’s consultation has now finished, and we will report on the findings once they are published.
Residents packed a meeting at The Oakwood Centre on Saturday to talk about bus services in Woodley and Earley