BUS journeys in Reading soared by one million trips last year and the town continues to buck the national trend of sliding interest in public transport.

The number of people using buses in the town has increased for the fifth year in a row and Reading is in the top three nationally for the best performing locations.

By comparison, bus usage slipped by 21 per cent in West Berkshire and 15 per cent in Wokingham and Bracknell.

Councillor Tony Page, deputy leader of Reading Borough Council, said: “These latest figures show that Reading is once again outperforming nearly every other bus service in England.

“A rise of one million passenger trips at a time when bus use is falling across the country is testament to both the town’s excellent council-owned bus service and the tremendous efforts of our colleagues at Reading Buses.

“A busy town like Reading has many competing demands for limited road space and limited scope to expand that road capacity. The only sustainable way to cope with demand is to continue to invest in public transport and public transport infrastructure to give people easy, quick and reliable bus services.”

Cllr Page suggested the number of bus users could continue to climb through a number of council-led schemes to ease congestion in the town.

Campaigners have formed opposition to the council's Mass Rapid Transit  scheme, claiming the damage to the environment will outweigh the relief to traffic.

Park and ride buses from Mereoak are now using the newly-opened bus lane on the A33 and the council expects the Route 422 scheme to help pedestrians, cyclists and buses.

Plans for the town's first Red Route for the Purple 17 service will be introduced from February, reducing delays along Bath Road from parked cars.

Martijn Gilbert, CEO at Reading Buses, added: “Our region is growing, so it is essential we get more people on board buses and help keep Reading moving and prospering.

"We are delighted to play an integral part, in partnership with the borough council, in delivering another year of growth in the use of the local bus network that outstrips national trends, especially against a backdrop of decline in many other parts of the UK."