Some bus services are to be cut and fares will rise in Reading as government funding is cut this fall.
Reading Buses has seen passenger numbers reduced by 23% since the pandemic, with local authority and government funding replacing lost revenue as demand has fallen.
The phasing out of the Bus Recovery Grant led to the first stage of service changes in April, but more are now needed as the final phase of funding ends next month – with changes imposed from 5 September.
Passenger numbers have increased since April, especially among school children and elderly customers, and continue to rise due to high fuel prices. However, Reading Buses chief executive Robert Williams says ‘fundamental changes’ to working from home and online shopping mean much greater use is ‘unlikely’.
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A spokesperson for Reading Borough Council said Reading Buses are ‘far from alone’ having to consider changes to services following cuts to funding, inflationary cost pressures and changing habits of displacement.
The spokesperson pointed out that the council had not cut any funding and that Reading Buses was owned by the council, “it is a commercial company, which means that decisions are made on a commercial basis” by the company .
Notable losses include the School 93 service between Shinfield Park and Bohunt School which will no longer operate due to declining usage.
The Pink 22 service from central Reading to Caversham Heights will be cut four times between Monday and Friday and a further two on Saturday because passenger numbers are very low.
The Pink 25 from central Reading to Peppard Common will operate three fewer services between Monday and Friday, while the Berry 23/24 will lose one service each weekday.
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At the same time, fares will rise across the board, in part to help fund a pay rise for staff that hasn’t seen a raise since 2019.
Single fares will increase by 10-20p to £2.30, while return/day tickets will increase by 30-40p to £4.50. SimplyReading 7 days, easysaver10 and daysaver5 will increase by £1, then costing £17.
Green Party councilor for Redlands ward David McElroy said the changes mean passengers will ‘pay more for less’ which will lead to even lower usage, leaving services ‘ripe for more cuts’ at the end of the day. ‘coming.
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“If the council were in the least serious about the shocking air quality in Reading, they would make sure public transport was frequent and cheap, not the other way around.
“Let’s hope those with the privilege of choice turn to their bikes, not their car keys, but the council’s lack of cycling infrastructure makes that unlikely too,” he added.
A spokesperson for the council said it ‘is not legally able to influence decisions’ on tariffs, but has received ‘indicative’ government funding of £26million through the bus service improvement plan which, if finalized, would allow for “local bus service improvements” and a “possible fare reduction scheme” in the future.