PLANS to merge one of the borough’s bus routes with a circuit that goes through Caversham have been condemned by members of Maiden Erlegh Residents Association (MERA).
And the local residents group feels that their complaints are being ignored by Reading Buses, which operates the 12 and 19 routes.
The group’s secretary, Steve Feltham, told a meeting of the group, held on Friday, February 9, that no reply to its concerns had been received from Reading other than the standard acknowledgements.
He said: “They don’t appear to be listening to us, or indeed Earley Town Council, who had also failed to receive a response to their concerns. The bus company’s response to our advice that passengers were not able to board the 19 service after Beech Lane due to overcrowding in the morning rush hour was to withdraw a bus at this time on the new service 22, which commences operation on Monday.”
Mr Feltham said that the 19a/c route buses were often full, especially at 3.30pm and in rush hour.
“Occasionally passengers were unable to board by the time the bus left the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The problem was made worse when the company started to use smaller buses at these times, and now this service as well as the popular rush hour services have all been withdrawn,” he added.
MERA feels that they have been let down by the company.
“Rumours abound that Reading Buses are trying to deter the use of these services so that they can take them all away and force people onto the primary routes, and it is hard to conclude that there may be any other explanation.
“The new link to Caversham Heights is a red flag to us. It indicates the Beech Lane service may suffer the same fate as the grossly inadequate new 12 service with time, because the congestion in Caversham will inevitably lead to long delays, which will discourage residents from using this hourly service.”
MERA has pledged to monitor the delays on this service and to take further action if their worst fears are realised.
Last month, we revealed that Wokingham Borough Council is putting the 12 route out to tender.
“This service is a much loved and valuable facility in Woodley and Earley,” Cllr Keith Baker, executive member for highways and transport, said at the time.
“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.”
Reading Buses said that the changes to the 22 route from Monday were operational efficiencies which would help keep the Lower Earley section of the route “sustainable”.
Martijn Gilbert, Chief Executive Officer of Reading Buses, said: “A number of the enhancements, such as linking Caversham Park and Emmer Green, and the link to the RBH, were implemented following customer feedback about new links which will get more people on board as an alternative to service reductions.”