Par­ties pledge to work to­gether to fix bus prob­lems

The Wokingham Paper - - NEWS - By GEMMA DAVID­SON gdavid­son@wok­ing­ham­pa­per.co.uk

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.

Pic­ture: Tony John­son

Res­i­dents packed a meet­ing at The Oakwood Cen­tre on Satur­day to talk about bus ser­vices in Wood­ley and Ear­ley

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