One of the bus routes that links Wokingham with Bracknell and Reading is being axed as passenger numbers plummet during the coronavirus pandemic.
Reading Buses has announced that from Monday, April 6, will introduce its third revised timetable in as many weeks.
It says that it has seen the number of people use its services decline by 85%-90%.
The Lion 4 route will be suspended from Monday, but the X4 service will continue. The Winnersh Park & Ride service remains mothballed.
Robert Williams, Reading Buses Chief Executive Officer: “After customer numbers started falling rapidly, we began by running a Saturday service. However, it quickly became apparent that this was too frequent a service.
“The same has applied to the reduced service introduced on March 30 as usage levels continued to decline following updated government guidance.
“Our timetables are changing from Monday April 6 to ensure that we can continue to run buses for the foreseeable future.”
Robert explained the Reading Buses service levels that customers can expect: “Most services will now have specially made, reduced timetable Monday to Saturday, and a reduced Sunday service.
“Broadly speaking, most urban services within Reading will be run at an hourly frequency and we are trying to maintain as many key journeys as possible after looking at which journeys people are using.
“Emerald 5 and 6, purple 17 and yellow 26 will still have a bus every 30 minutes for most of the day – although overnight services are suspended.”
Some rural routes were going to be less than hourly, or have to be suspended entirely. “Unfortunately, some routes are simply not carrying enough customers to allow them to continue.
“We have already suspended the Winnersh Triangle park & ride and this is being joined by Green Line 702 and Newbury & District 1a/1c as well and from Friday April 10 our Connect Henley-on-Thames routes 151, 152 ad 153. Tiger 7 will see only three journeys a day between Reading and Riseley, and Jet Black 1 and Lime 2/2a will run every 80-90 minutes.
“Reading Buses emphasise that we do want to provide a service wherever we can, but we have to reiterate that there is only so much we can achieve in the current circumstances.
“If there are specific journeys that are needed, we ask people to please contact our customer service team. However, it must be emphasised that we cannot guarantee being able to fulfil any requests due to the limited nature of our resources.”
Yesterday, the Government announced a £397 million funding boost for bus services in England.
Under the new Covid-19 Bus Services Support Grant, up to £13.9m per week will be made available to bus services for at least the next twelve weeks, totalling up to £167 million.
As a condition of the funding, bus operators will be required to maintain necessary services at a level which is sufficient to meet much reduced demand, but also to allow adequate space between passengers on board. This is expected to be up to 50 per cent of normal service levels.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have been very clear during the outbreak that the best way to stop the spread of the virus and protect the NHS, is to stay at home if possible.
“Our buses are a lifeline for people who need to travel for work or to buy food – including our emergency services and NHS staff – and it’s absolutely vital we do all we can to keep the sector running.
“This multi-million-pound investment will protect crucial local transport links across England, bolstering the sector and minimising disruption for passengers in the long term.”
Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “We are pleased the Government has acted on our call and announced emergency funding to help make sure vital bus services can continue to transport key workers to the frontline during the coronavirus crisis.
“Bus operators must work with local authorities to ensure that this public subsidy is targeted at the people and places that depend on it the most.
“Councils now want to also work with government to provide financial support to those places which depend on other publicly-run mass transit systems, such as ferries, trams, light railway networks.
“These also provide key workers with access to their workplaces, and are faced with unprecedented hits on their revenues, impacting on their future viability and ability to help people and business recover when this pandemic is over.”
To see the new timetables, log on to https://www.reading-buses.co.uk/coronavirus
Changes to services that run through Wokingham Borough
Buses will run hourly between Reading, Shinfield, Arborfield and Wokingham, Monday to Saturday.
The service to Orwell Drive will be suspended.
Sundays will have an hourly service between Reading and Sheerlands Road at Arborfield Green.
The Nine Mlie Ride shuttle will continue to run to an amended timetable to connect to the leopard.
Buses will only run an hourly service on the lion X4 Monday to Sunday.
The lion 4 is suspended. For the Southern Estates, please use lion X4 and Courtney Buses routes 171/2 and 194.
All buses from Fleet are suspended. There will be three daytime journeys between Reading and Riseley Mondays-Saturdays only.
The leopard 8 and 9 will each run hourly during the day, Monday to Saturdays. This combines with leopard 3 to provide a bus every 20 minutes between Reading and the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
On Sundays only the leopard 8 will run hourly between Reading and Spencers Wood.
Orange 13 and 14 will each run hourly Monday to Saturday.
During evenings and on Sundays each route will run every 2 hours.
Little Oranges 19a/c
The little oranges 19a and 19c will be split, providing an hourly service between Reading, Woodley and Lower Earley, and reverse.
Little oranges 19b will run hourly.