Bus service consultation

Long Wittenham’s only bus service linking the village with Didcot, Abingdon, Appleford and Berinsfield will come under scrutiny next year as Oxfordshire County Council seeks savings to its public transport bus subsidy budget. Service 97 will be one of many rural bus services in the county that will be examined.

There will be two open meetings to discuss issues at Wallingford town hall on November 9. At 2.30pm and 6.30pm.Comments and ideas must be with the county council by December 24 at the latest. In March decisions will be taken on new bus contracts starting June next year and running for six years.

Long Wittenham’s Monday to Saturday 97 service is run by Whites Coaches and attracts an annual subsidy of more than £45,500. Peak journeys from Dorchester to Didcot Girls School and return are provided commercially by Whites. Only off-peak and Saturday journeys receive a subsidy that works out at £3.95 per passenger.

Figures show that the route has generated passengers between Berinsfield and Didcot and has the potential for even more business with planned housing growth at Didcot during the six-year contract.

Assistant Passenger Transport Officer John Wood said: “There will be a meeting at the end of March to consider the bids for the re-tendered contracts. Some very difficult decisions will have to be made.

“Reductions in frequency, longer routes to combine two services into one or even complete withdrawal of services particularly of little used market day routes are very possible in the current situation.”

Options open for debate on Long Wittenham’s 97 service include continuing the present service but axing the Abingdon-Didcot arm; an hourly Berinsfield-Didcot service might be possible within existing resources and investigate a possible later afternoon service after the current 15.00 Didcot-Berinsfield service.

Should the route still go round parts of Ladygrove estate which is also served by route 93? At present it provides a morning service into the shopping area of Didcot and serves schools in Ladygrove.

A final option is to withdraw the service completely leaving Long Wittenham without a bus service. A fall-back option is to investigate a Dial-a-Ride service. The parish council wants to retain the service and would like to see an extra late afternoon bus.

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