Long Wittenham’s only bus service has come to the end of the road – victim of Oxfordshire County Council’s spending cuts. Now the parish council is seeking public opinion as to whether it’s feasible to pursue an alternative service.
Elderly and young people without a car have to rely on family and friends to get them into Didcot for shopping, medical and social needs.
In a bid to mitigate the problem the county council has launched a bookable minibus service from 10.15am to 2.30pm to support communities without access to public transport. Bus passes would not be valid.
The fleet of minibuses is used to transport children with special needs to school and elderly people to day centres but there is spare time which is available for community use.
The service is chargeable up front but cost will vary depending upon usage. If journeys can be shared with other villages costs can be reduced.
Parish councillor Martin Elliff said: “There is a window of opportunity here but we need to assess what demand there is before we pursue the idea any further. For people without a car public transport is vital but the fact remains that not enough people used the service.”
The council wants to see if there would be a take up for a limited service using the minibuses, a couple of times a week with a two-hour stay in Didcot. The council might be able to offer some subsidy or link up with a neighbouring village.
Money from developers known as S106 funding can be used to subsidise buses where a route runs through a development area. Long Wittenham could benefit in the long term as the expansion of the Ladygrove estate north-east of Didcot encroaches into a small part of Long Wittenham Parish.
On the final day of Service 97 parish councillor Gordon Rogers was at the High Street bus stop for the 10am service to Didcot. Three people were waiting. Already on board were three passengers. The bus stopped to pick up one person in Didcot Road.
Mr Rogers boarded the 11.51am from Wittenham. Two people got off the bus. He was the only person on board for the journey to Didcot.There were no drop-offs or pick-ups at the railway station. On arrival at the Orchard Centre the three who travelled in on the 10am bus from LW were waiting and returned to LW along with 1 other person.
“I returned on the 14.10 at the Orchard Centre, the last bus from Didcot. One person got off the bus at Didcot which was the 13.51 out of Wittenham. For the journey back I was the only passenger on board. There were no passengers at the Tesco store. No-one was waiting in Wittenham.”
“A total of 11 passengers used the service on its six journeys, three each way. Clearly it was vital for people without a car but with a subsidy of £39,000 a year maintaining the service was not commercially viable. The council needs to assess demand from the villagers before we pursue an alternative service and we welcome their views.”
Cllr. Gordon Rogers: Tel: 01865 407234 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr. Martin Elliff: Tel: O1865 407110 / Email: email@example.com