Saturday, 12 September 2009

Reading Buses In Turmoil

Despite being an award-winning transport company the publicly-owned Reading Buses has been garnering some negative headlines as it turns into an unwitting vicitim of the current economic climate.

A six-per-cent drop in passengers has contributed to losses totalling £40,000-per-week and this has lead to managment imposing swinging cutbacks including the closure of 'economically unviable' routes.

LibDem Parliamentary candidate for Reading East, Cllr Gareth Epps, described how quickly the situation had changed for the cash-heavy business, "without any real public awareness," and called for neighbouring local authorities to pool their resources to support valued local services in a move which has since been taken up.

Meanwhile a threatened strike by the Unite union appears to have been warded off following a vote of no confidence in the board of directors.

The company has faced severe criticism for ongoing fare rises in rural areas and scheduling confusion caused when a popular service between Tadley and Reading was cancelled - only six months after it was introduced.

A massive reorganisation of the bus schedules was introduced for the start of the new school year, but this hasn't been enough to stop the slide in the company's fortunes.

Worryingly, the company website is struggling to keep up with all the changes, and passengers may be being deterred by the difficulty in gaining reliable information.

The state of affairs has reached such a pitch that a public meeting was organised by Maiden Erlegh Resident's Association on 10th September to discuss services in East Reading and Earley.

This follows an emergency subsidy authorised by Reading Borough Council to protect the 22 route and a temporary deal between Wokingham Borough Council and Thames Travel to keep the 83 route to Woodley's Bulmershe School until Christmas.

Bus bosses have defended their business plan to maintain a 1% profit margin on popular routes as offering 'value for money' and rejected calls to open up public transport to competition, saying the 15% margin charged by First bus company would reduce choice.

They also argued their wide variety of tickets enabled customers to get best value according to their needs.

Oranjepan says:
A profusion of choices only leads to confusion, but Hobson's choice is no choice at all.


Update: Reading East MP Rob Wilson has responded by urging bus workers to reject strike motions during a ballot this week, arguing that industrial action would be counterproductive.
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  1. I didn't know all this about the Reading buses. I rely on them to get me to the station a couple of times a week so I can get to London for chorus rehearsals. Thanks for updating us on this situation. Elizabeth

  2. Hi E, yeah, Reading Buses are one of the best services in the country, but that just makes me more concerned about everywhere else!


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