Some bus services are having to be cut and fares will go up in Reading as government funding is phased out this Autumn. 

Reading Buses has seen passenger numbers reduced by 23 per cent since the pandemic, with local authority and government funding replacing lost revenue whilst demand has gone down. 

The phasing out of the Bus Recover Grant resulted in the first stage of service changes in April but more are now necessary as the final phase of funding comes to an end next month – with changes being imposed from September 5.   

Passenger numbers have increased since April, most notably amongst school children and elderly customers, and are continuing to rise due to high fuel prices. However, Reading Buses chief executive Officer,Robert Williams,  explains that “fundamental changes” linked to home working and online shopping mean much greater usage is “unlikely”. 

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A Reading Borough Council spokesperson said that Reading Buses is “far from alone” in having to consider changes to services following the removal of funding, inflationary cost pressures and changes in travel patterns. 

The spokesperson emphasised that the council has not removed any funding and whilst Reading Buses is council-owned, “it is a commercial company which means decisions are made on a commercial basis” by the company. 

Notable losses include the School 93 service between Shinfield Park and Bohunt School which will no longer run due to falling usage. 

The Pink 22 service from central Reading to Caversham Heights will cut four times between Monday and Friday and a further two on Saturday as passenger numbers are very low. 

The Pink 25 from central Reading to Peppard Common will operate three fewer services between Monday and Friday, whilst the Berry 23/24 will lose one service on each day of the week. 

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At the same time fares will go up across the board, in part to help fund a pay increase for staff who haven’t seen a rise since 2019. 

Single fares will increase by 10-20p to £2.30, whilst return/day tickets will go up by 30-40p to £4.50. The simplyReading 7-day, easysaver10 and daysaver5 will increase by £1, subsequently costing £17. 

Green Party councillor for Redlands ward, David McElroy, said the changes mean passengers “will be paying more for less” resulting in even lower usage leaving the services “ripe for more cuts” in the future. 

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“If the council was at all serious about the shocking quality of air in Reading they would be making sure public transport is frequent and cheap, not the opposite.  

“Hopefully those with the privilege to choose turn to their bikes, not their car keys, but the council’s lack of cycling infrastructure makes that unlikely too,” he added.   

A council spokesperson said it “is not legally able to influence decisions” regarding fares but has been “indicatively awarded” £26m in government funding through the Bus Service Improvement Plan which, if finalised, would allow “enhancements of local bus services” and a “possible fare reduction scheme” in the future.