Bus talks collapse

Hopes of an improved bus between Long Wittenham and Didcot have crashed. Now the parish council wants a face-to-face meeting with county council leader Ian Hudspeth to discuss what one villager described as the “worst bus service in 50 years.”

Last December Thames Travel slashed Service 97 from four buses a day to two because even with a subsidy it was uneconomic. The current service means that passengers catching the 10.34 from Wittenham arrive at 10.49 at the Orchard Centre. The return bus leaves one minute later. They have to wait until 13.50 for the last bus home.

County councillor Lynda Atkins has been working with the parish council to reduce the three-hour waiting time at Didcot with an extra bus but it could be achieved only at the expense of Moulsford losing its bus service.

She said: “Very regrettably it is now clear that we are not going to be able to sort out a bus timetable that is acceptable to other communities. There is no way to provide an extra bus journey for Long Wittenham without taking a hard-won service from Moulsford. Moving the problem elsewhere is not a solution.

“There will be a review of bus services for changes to be implemented next year. I will do all I can to make sure that things are sorted out and Long Wittenham gets an improved service to meet the needs of villagers.”

The collapse of talks has been met with an angry response from parish council chairman Tom Bowtell who said: “We have been treated very badly by both the county council and Thames Travel. There was no consultation with the council or villagers last December when Service 97 was slashed.

“We are down to only two buses a day and only one of those is viable. People have to wait three hours at Didcot for a return bus in the afternoon as the first bus turns round almost immediately for Wittenham. It’s causing a lot of hardship for many people, particularly the elderly many of whom rely on the buses. We want to talk the leader of the county council Ian Hudspeth as a matter of urgency.”

Retired pub manager Don Caws lives at the Three Poplars home park. He said the current bus service was hopeless, forcing people to wait three hours to get back home. “It’s causing a lot of hardship to elderly folk who do not have a car to get to Didcot for shopping and it’s particularly bad during the winter.

“I have to be in Didcot twice a week for medical appointments and shopping. Unless friends give me a lift there and back I have to go by taxi and that’s an expensive £22 round trip. It’s out of the reach of many pensioners.”

Greta and Charlie Jones from Saxons Heath have a car but used the bus until the recent changes. Mrs Jones said: “The service is appalling. You have to feel sorry for many older people without a car who rely on the buses and now find themselves isolated.

“I’ve lived in Wittenham for a large part of my life. Once we had buses to Didcot, Abingdon, Wallingford and Oxford but today’s service is the worst in 50 years. We deserve better.”

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