A much-loved, cancelled bus service relied too much on pensioners to be worth running, a top official at Reading Borough Council claimed.

Emails seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service reveal that Reading council’s senior transport planner believed the Winnersh Triangle park and ride “was overly reliant on OAP shoppers”.

The revelation follows news that Reading Buses and Wokingham Borough Council decided the service was not “viable” to run.

The 500 service ran directly from Winnersh Triangle to Reading town centre. Reading Buses suspended it in November 2021 while Wokingham Borough Council expanded its car park.

But with construction now complete—having cost at least £6.8 million—Reading Buses said passengers would be too few to make the service worth putting back on. And Wokingham Borough Council said it couldn’t afford to subsidise it.

Now, newly-uncovered emails reveal that Wokingham Borough Council was looking into reinstating the service as recently as January this year. But their consultants and Reading Borough Council’s senior transport officer seemed to agree the service shouldn’t return.

Reading Chronicle: The Winnersh Triangle park and ride car park stands emptyThe Winnersh Triangle park and ride car park stands empty (Image: Newsquest)

In the emails, Reading Borough Council’s senior transport planner Stephen Wise said the former service: “started quite late and finished quite early, and was overly reliant on OAP shoppers from Woodley etc. going to John Lewis and Broad Street.”

He also said it couldn’t offer an effective connection to Royal Berkshire Hospital for NHS staff, or a connection to Reading Station.

“So where do potential users of the P&R really want to go to in Reading, particularly new users to replace commuters no longer working five days a week in a town centre office?” he asked.

Wise also suggested that an alternative route might also stop at the hospital, or be combined with the park and ride service from Thames Valley Park.

He was responding to a request for information on bus lanes from Julian Moss at consultant firm WSP. Moss said Wokingham Borough Council had commissioned him to look at options for a direct service from Winnersh to Reading town centre.

But he said making the service “break even” would need “some fairly heroic assumptions about passenger numbers.”

READ MORE: Wokingham council ‘can’t afford’ Winnersh Triangle park and ride

In a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Wokingham Borough Council leader Stephen Conway said the council would be “open in principle” to a different route. But he said lengthening the journey might make the service “less attractive to passengers.”

He added: “We're still monitoring usage across bus services and other park and ride sites in the borough to judge when it might be feasible to reintroduce some kind of provision.”

A spokesperson from Reading Borough Council said: “We would certainly welcome the consideration of extending the Winnersh Triangle park and ride service routes to Thames Valley Park and Royal Berkshire Hospital.

“However, as the site owners, it is now down to Wokingham Borough Council to further investigate the viability of the site and services to understand an appropriate model that is both financially viable, but also offers improved bus services to key destinations, to encourage passenger growth.”