Plans to reinstate the peak hour service to a popular Woodley and Earley bus route have been set in motion by Wokingham Borough Council’s decision-making executive, after agreeing with residents’ concerns.
Members have voted to put the 12 service– formerly the 19 a/c routes - out to tender. The borough council subsidises the current route run by Reading Buses, but the subsidised contract on this specific bus route has now come to an end.
The borough council carried out an extensive consultation attracting 750 responses involving individuals and organisations such as Earley and Woodley town councils, and Maiden Earley and North Earley resident associations. There was also a public meeting for Woodley and Earley held in the Oakwood Centre, where more than 100 people attended a workshop to create ideas for the future.
This highlighted a set of core requirements for any new service - including the provision of peak hour and more frequent journeys, and better links to the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The tender will ask for bids to provide a new service which encompasses these core requirements with hourly trips, covering both morning and evening rush hours, from this coming September.
“This service is a much loved and valuable facility in Woodley and Earley,” said Cllr Keith Baker, executive member for highways and transport.
“Residents want and need the morning service put back so that they can use it to get to work and to their early hospital appointments. They rely on it. It’s a real community service.”
The subsidised contract with Reading Buses for the 19 a/c routes in Woodley and Earley finished in summer last year, so the council and the bus company looked at options for its future.
The council offered an increased subsidy, but commercial viability meant the bus company was unable to keep the peak morning journeys. The 12 route which was then set up as a temporary ‘town service’, in those areas of Woodley and Earley without a commercial bus service, to provide a stop gap until the start of the new tender.
Under the new proposals, the 983 ‘school’s service to Bulmershe School and Waingels College would continue to operate but as a separate service.
“The consensus from everyone who took part in our consultation and meetings was that the current 12 service does not meet the needs of the community,” said Cllr Baker.
“This is why this tender process, which will start this spring, is so important.”