READING Buses has announced job cuts which would see up to 33 people losing their employment.

The company said yesterday (July 28) that they are planning a number of cost-saving measures to ensure they can continue to provide "the best possible service in the current challenging financial climate."

This includes up to 33 job losses in various roles across the company.

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Reading Buses says it has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which at one point saw customer numbers fall to lower than 10 per cent than normal figures.

With changes to service levels, the use of the job retention (furlough) scheme and some government funding, the company has been able to continue to provide a service for key workers from the start of the pandemic and, as restrictions have been eased, increase to a "more-or-less normal service" yesterday.

However, whilst customer numbers are growing back slowly, the government furlough scheme will come to an end and the company said there is no guarantee that people will return to their old routines.

Reading Buses predicts an uncertain period ahead and have created a plan to ensure that they can continue to provide the right level of service for the town and the surrounding area.

Robert Williams, Reading Buses’ Chief Executive Officer, said: "Like many others, we have been constantly using the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe the situation we have found ourselves in.

"With hugely reduced customer numbers and changes to the way we operate, it has been a difficult period to get through.

"Our fantastic team have worked incredibly hard to ensure we could continue to run a service for key workers from the outset, but also that we could scale up later for everyone else, as leisure and tourism centres began to open up.

"However, the industry as a whole is suffering.

"Once the pandemic is over and things return to ‘normal’ we expect that some people will continue in their current pattern of using other modes of transport, working from home and internet shopping – all of which will see an ongoing reduction in both customer numbers and revenue.

"If we continue to operate with the same costs whilst waiting for customers to return, it would result in the company no longer being able to survive.

"It is for this reason that we have constructed a plan to allow Reading Buses to continue to serve the people of Reading and the local area by reducing as many costs as possible."

Up to 33 positions in the company are at risk, but no driving redundancies are currently expected.

The company will also implement a freeze on new recruitment, including apprenticeships, as well as a freeze on investment in new vehicles.

New ways of working for existing staff will also be introduced.

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Robert added: "It is probable that these will not be the only changes needed as we begin to look forward into the ‘new normal’ future.

"We do not take any of these decisions lightly and have tried to avoid redundancies for as long as possible.

"It is imperative that we continue to regain customer confidence so maintaining our current service level is a priority.

"The environmental impact of using private transport is huge, so we hope that many more customers return to our buses over the coming days and weeks as things return to normal.

"Our buses are clean, safe and good to go for people wanting to return to their commute or access retail and leisure facilities."