Taxpayers’ cash to save 'lifeline' Norreys busBy Alice Murphy
May 27, 2010
Townspeople devastated over plans to put the brakes on a “lifeline” bus have been given an 11th hour boost after it was announced taxpayers’ money will be used to keep the service moving.
Wokingham Borough Council’s executive committee were due to approve spending £14,900 to enable the bus to continue for another year at a meeting tonight.
The service would be paid for with funds from the council and a £2,000 payment from Tesco, and run by Thames Travel.
The 190 bus, which runs every 20 minutes between Bracknell and Reading, is due to be withdrawn from Norreys by bus operator First Group on Saturday.
The executive member for highways at Wokingham Borough Council has emphasised that residents will definitely keep some sort of service on the estate, albeit reduced from the current frequency.
If the council’s decision-making executive approves the new plans, a bus could run every half-hour around the estate during the week and every hour on Saturdays.
But one bus user says it should not fall to Wokingham taxpayers to foot the bill.
Gloria Anderson, 67, of Patten Ash Drive, said the bus company First should keep the bus service running.
She added the regular timing of the buses was crucial for many people in Norreys, including those relying on it to reach hospital appointments or work.
Mrs Anderson’s daughter Fiona, 33, is disabled and uses the bus to reach medical appointments.
Miss Anderson believes the reason First wants to withdraw the bus is too many people use bus passes and not enough are paying cash.
She said: “I have disability issues with my knees and my back which means I find it difficult to walk sometimes, and have to take strong painkillers each day to get on with my life.
“I don’t find it easy to get up to the main road at the best of times never mind when I have a bad day, pain wise.
“[First] is ignoring the fact that many people around Norreys area are elderly and use walking sticks, walking frames, or have the four wheeled trolleys to enable them to get around.”
A survey organised by Wokingham Borough Council showed a third of all journeys on the 190 from Norreys are into Wokingham town centre.
If the bus service stopped, some residents would have to walk 1,250 metres just to get to and from a bus stop.
The estate has one of the highest concentrations of elderly people in the borough yet they would be left the furthest away from the bus network if it stopped.
Local residents were so concerned about the council’s plans, they launched a petition that gathered hundreds of signatures from Norreys residents desperate to keep the bus.
Catherine Scott, 60, who lives in Sarum Crescent, said: “At the moment I literally just cross the road and can go into Bracknell or Reading and obviously I can use my free bus pass.
“The bus is a bit of a lifeline for some of the older people.
“I could cope if the bus went but it would be too difficult for some of the other people if they had to walk into town.”
Councillor Keith Baker, the executive member for highways, was at pains to reassure residents they would not be left with nothing.
He said: “All credit to the group of residents who have raised the petition, which is absolutely fantastic, although we had started to take steps beforehand.
“We are very concerned when whole communities lose their link into the town centre.
“There are a lot of people in Norreys who either do not have the capacity to have a car or cannot afford to run one – they are the most vulnerable.”
Cllr Baker added: “We can’t say it’s going to be the same frequency.
“But having a predictable bus which is there every half hour is better than having nothing at all.”