CAMPAIGNERS believe they have been served a raw deal by bus chiefs after a wave of changes were made to vital services.

Reading Buses confirmed several routes are set to merge or run on an hourly basis in some areas, causing concern for parents in Caversham.

The Pink 22 and Lower Earley 19 routes will be combined and renamed 'Red 22', with buses running to the Royal Berkshire Hospital every hour.

Other changes include the merging of the 23 and 24 Caversham services, while the Peppard Common Pink 25 route will remain unchanged.

Fiona Pringle was one of many opponents to plans to cut services entirely as part of cost-cutting measures.

She said: "The 22 has received very severe cuts and they are much worse than Reading Buses had advertised them to be.

"We feel enormously disappointed. At each stage Reading Buses have moved the goal posts. The residents of Caversham Heights are going to be hit very hard by these changes.

"The parents getting their children to the Heights will be unable to do so and they will need to take to their cars if their children are too young to make the long walk.

Reading Chronicle:

"We are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as Reading Buses say these buses are not being used. We have taken photographs to prove they are.

"This is a huge difference and is dishonest for them to slide this through."

Reading Buses revealed drastic measures to axe the 24 service amid concerns the company was losing money, but backed down during the consultation.

Martijn Gilbert, CEO of Reading Buses, explained it had become impossible to provide the comprehensive network while passenger numbers were declining.

Mrs Pringle, however, said footfall remains steady and accused the provider of 'hiding' behind commercial data.

Mr Gilbert added: “We are encouraged by the strength of feeling that the local community has shown in response to our consultation.

"We must keep reiterating that it is one thing to respond to a consultation to keep the service running, and quite another to maintain the service in the face of dwindling customer numbers."