Children and young people returning to school in Wokingham borough are being encouraged to take advantage of cheap bus travel - and make the most of it in their spare time too.
Wokingham Borough Council is encouraging more people to use buses as operators grapple with the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including reduced passenger numbers and higher running costs.
If this is going to succeed, and rescue an affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative to driving for future generations, as many people as possible need to use them.
Reading Buses and its sister company Thames Valley Buses, whose routes serve local schools, offer reduced Boost fares for young people aged 18 and under, and to students 19 and over studying full-time at certain colleges and universities.
Boost fares are available for all services including the lion 4/X4, leopard 3, claret 21, little oranges 19b and the recently extended Mereoak park and ride 600, which between them serve Emmbrook, St Crispin's and The Holt secondary schools in Wokingham town, The Forest School in Winnersh, Bulmershe School in Woodley, Maiden Erlegh School in Earley and many neighbouring primaries.
No separate identification is needed, although students who look 18 or older are required to show some form of ID when they travel or in advance.
Advance Boost tickets can be bought on a single trip, daily, weekly, 30-day, termly or year-round basis, with an annual simplyWokingham & Reading zone pass costing just £550 online or on Reading Buses’ app (equivalent to £10.58 a week, or £1.51 a day), more than a third less than the regular price of £850.
A termly pass is £205 and can still be used on all journeys and routes within the zone, whether going to school or visiting friends in the evenings and at weekends. To find out more, visit the Reading Buses site or get the app from the Google Play and Apple stores.
Supporting a precious community asset
Cllr Paul Fishwick, executive member for active travel, transport and highways, said: “We're pleased that our local operator offers a flexible range of tickets for school pupils and students as we need everybody to take the bus instead of driving, or being driven by others, wherever they can.
“Despite a small recent increase, which was needed to remain viable, its fares remain among the country's lowest while its fleet is modern and comfortable and the services are frequent. It's a safe and easy way for young people to enjoy more independence while helping us address the very pressing issues of air pollution and the climate emergency.
“The benefits extend to other age groups too, as the new simplyWokingham & Reading zone is useful to anyone who previously needed a simplyNetwork ticket to travel between Reading and Wokingham by bus. This includes residents of villages like Shinfield, Spencer’s Wood and Arborfield.
“We're doing everything possible to ensure bus travel remains a serious option, including working with operators and others to find ways of making services viable in the long-term, but we can only achieve this with healthy passenger numbers.
“If you haven’t taken the bus recently, please consider giving it a go – it’s so easy to plan your journey with the latest travel information now available at your fingertips, and live bus times on your app - and it could save you money as well.”
Passenger numbers are still about 22 per cent lower than before covid-19, while costs are rising due to factors like fuel prices. With no clear future funding from the Government, and statutory contributions from housing developers set to run out eventually, the future of Wokingham borough's services lies with the council, operators and the wider community.
Helping residents and the environment
The council recently agreed to subsidise alternative routes through the borough's rural south until 31 March 2023, saving key links whose futures were in question until a more permanent solution is found.
It is currently renewing all 24,000 concessionary bus passes which it has issued to eligible residents, as it is required to do every five years. These are available to people of state pension age or with certain mobility impairments.
The council strongly supports all forms of active and sustainable travel as it declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has pledged to play as full a role as possible in making the borough a net-zero carbon producer by 2030.
By making walking, wheeling, cycling and taking public transport safer and more convenient, and raising awareness through its My Journey Wokingham active travel team, it can also help to counter the rising cost of living and get people living healthier lives.
Work is also continuing on its mostly traffic-free “greenways” linking key destinations and it is seeking people’s views on its local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, a document outlining possible improvements to the borough’s routes, until 2 October. For help completing this or alternative formats, call (0118) 974 6000 or visit one of the borough's libraries.
For more about alternative forms of travel in Wokingham borough, including a local bus journey planner, visit the My Journey website.
- Boost fares are available to students of the University of Reading and University of West London, Reading College, UTC Reading, Newbury College, Bracknell and Wokingham College, East Berkshire College and Uxbridge College.
- The simplyWokingham & Reading zone covers all Thames Valley Buses services in Wokingham town and the 127, 128 and 129 between Wokingham, Twyford & Reading and Reading Buses lion 4/X4 service. It also covers all Reading Buses local services in Reading, including services to Arborfield, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Burghfield Common and Sonning Common.
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