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New A34 bus services unlikely to happen

A plan to improve public transport connections to the north and south of Newbury could be scuppered at the first hurdle according to Newbury and District’s Dave Wilder.

The Newbury Town Plan consultation highlighted a desire for Newbury to have better bus links to both Oxford and Winchester, but a lack of funding from local authorities to just start new services across council boundary lines is one of the many challenges ahead.

Most new services require financial support from the local authority. Local authorities have, since deregulation in 1986, been loath to maintain established “cross boundary” services, however popular, and the prospect of them supporting a new one is, realistically, nil said Dave Wilder from Newbury and District.

He added: “They have, generally, cut even the most vital of local services to ribbons as part of their “austerity” cuts, in recent years and again have little or no interest in putting any money into starting anything new, even, even in developing areas in their heartland that cry out for it. What new services are supported by them are often financed via property developers as part of the planning application and none of them would be interested in providing inter-urban (or rural) bus services.”

Various attempts have been made to link Newbury and Whitchurch/Winchester by bus on a less intensive scale over the years but none of these have proved economically viable. There also was once an hourly bus service between Newbury and Oxford for many years from the second world war to the 1970s which roughly followed the A34. This was tried again by Newbury Buses about fifteen years ago on a limited stop basis with just four journeys per day but sadly it failed.

As well as the finances, Dave says the lack of population to the north and particularly to the south would also cause a bus company a headache.

“It would be necessary to divert off the A34 to access most of these communities and this, of course would add, substantially, to the running time making it ever less desirable to most of the travelling public.

“I would suggest that most people would expect to drive the Newbury to Oxford route in roughly 30-40 minutes in their private cars. The bus would take at least an hour, even based on the most limited of limited stop services. The A34 rarely enjoys a week of trouble free opening and is constantly closed due to accidents or incidents. In inclement weather sections of the A34 are often the first in the area to close. All this would inevitably lead to major reliability problems which would soon tarnish the reputation of the service and its operator.

“There would need to be plenty of buses in-between to make the service attractive to standard 9 to 5 type workpeople, scholars and both full and part time students as well as leisure travellers and shoppers. At least some thought would need to be given to evening theatre goers, at least at the Oxford end. This would all make for an expensive service to launch, but not to do so would end up with the operator pleasing few of the people little of the time and virtually strangling the service at birth.”

Image: Flickr Eddie

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