Thursday, 30 November 2017

Uproar at 22 Bus Services’ Cuts

Reading Buses’ announcement that from February 2018 it will HALVE the 22’s current 30 minute service down to once an hour on Saturdays and off peak Monday-Friday, as well as completely scrap the Sunday service, has infuriated local residents.  I’ve been inundated with correspondence and phone calls from angry and upset people.
Passengers on 22 during day time

If, as residents claim, the buses are well used throughout the day, then it flies in the face of claims made by Reading Buses so questions must be asked about how robust the company's ridership figures (which they will not share) are.  It may be that bus pass holders aren’t properly counted and that would be very concerning from an age equality point of view.

In addition, Labour-run Reading Borough Council (RBC) wants to get people out of cars and onto buses to help tackle congestion.  The Local Transport Plan states that “The challenge is to further improve the reliability, efficiency and coverage of bus services in order to build and maintain current successes and to further increase passenger levels.”  But how is cutting the 22 service going to increase passenger numbers?  Surely the reverse is what is needed to attract more onto the buses, ie increasing the number of buses per hour, is what my residents are telling me!  Particularly odd is that RBC is actually owns Reading Buses and therefore residents feel the council should be duty bound to provide a decent service for all Reading's residents.

Mapledurham Ward residents feel an hourly service is what they would expect in the deep rural countryside: not a prosperous town like Reading.  It is extraordinary that a bus company, which is wholly owned by Reading Borough Council, should be cutting services used by so many vulnerable people, namely children and pensioners.

The cuts will severely impact the many who do not drive (school children as well as a surprising number of adults) and those who cannot walk far.  It will push more into their cars, which in itself will add to Caversham and Reading’s congestion, negatively affecting the reliability of buses, adding more of a deterrent to would-be bus passengers.

As the Mapledurham Ward councillor I, together with others including Fiona Pringle (who set up the community group “Concerned of Caversham”) attended a meeting with Martijn Gilbert, Reading Buses’ Chief Executive, on Monday 20 November.   In advance of the meeting we decided that our top priority was to get the 30 minute service restarted at the end of the school day.  Sadly, although Martijn agreed with me that it is important to get children into the habit of using the bus, he was not prepared to budge.  Martijn said that subject to timetabling the ‘peak’ service was likely to resume at about 5.15-5.30 pm. 

Following the meeting “Concerned of Caversham” has been testing out Reading Buses’ claim that the 22 service is not used very much during the day.  The evidence shows that actually the number of passengers is very healthy, with buses after 3 pm usually packed and standing room only. 

Once I have finished reading all the objections sent through to me I will write again to Reading Buses on behalf of Mapledurham Ward residents to voice their concerns and urge for a rethink on the announced cuts.

Readers may like to look at my previous posts in October about Reading Buses.  In addition there is this GetReading report.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Opportunity to Help Set Your Community's Safety Priorities

Have your say by filling out Reading Community Safety Survey launched today by Reading Borough Council’s Neighbourhood Initiative Team.

The survey asks for views on issues such as crime, parking, litter and anti-social behaviour.  The consultation will be running until Friday 15 December 2017.

Responses will be analysed over the New Year, broken down into area-by-area data and then considered in conjunction with the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) priorities for Reading, along with locally reported crime across the borough, the British Crime Survey and priorities identified by Thames Valley Police.

Priorities will then be fed back to the local Safer Neighbourhood Forums (formerly Neighbourhood Action Groups) and other local community groups, and priorities will then be set accordingly.  Local residents will then be able to attend meetings to discuss their top three priorities and talk about possible solutions or feed in to online discussions.

Anyone without access to a computer can drop in to a session at Reading Libraries during the ‘Get online’ sessions:

Neighbourhood Initiatives Officers will be available at Central Library (no sessions are offered at Caversham Library) on the following dates and times to help residents complete the survey:
  • Thursday 23rd November, 2pm-3pm
  • Tuesday 28th November, 2pm–3pm

The 2015 survey received 1,250 responses across Reading, and showed speeding and traffic issues as the biggest priorities in most areas with drugs and anti-social behaviour also featuring high.

The Safer Neighbourhood Forums consist of representatives from Thames Valley Police and Reading Borough Council and members of the community who work together to tackle specific issues.

More information about the SNFs and how to get involved is available by contacting the Neighbourhood Initiatives Team, e-mail: or by registering interest at

Monday, 16 October 2017

Petition Launched Against Reading Buses' Pink Routes Consultation

The 'Concerned of Caversham' local campaign group, set up last week after Reading Buses launched a consultation on proposed changes to the Caversham Pink bus routes, started a petition last night.

The petition entitled Halt the current Caversham Pink bus route proposals reads:
"We the undersigned urge Reading Buses (and Reading Borough Council who own Reading Buses) to halt the current proposals in their entirety for all Pink routes and to engage with community groups in advance of any future proposed changes."
If you agree and live locally/use the bus services, please sign

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Pink Bus Route 22 Feedback

At Saturday afternoon's meeting convened by Fiona Pringle (who set up the Facebook campaign group Concerned of Caversham Reading Buses Consultation) local residents were encouraged to list out concerns about Reading Buses' proposed changes to bus services across Caversham.

I worked with those interested in Route No 22 as it is the service used by my Ward residents.  If readers know of additional concerns, please let me know by email to and I will pass them on to Fiona Pringle

Cutting out Priest Hill/The Mount/large portion of Albert Road deeply unpopular
  • Priest Hill too steep for many pedestrians (some carrying shopping)
  • The Cloisters’ elderly residents on Priest Hill would lose bus access
  • Extra Care Home on The Mount/Albert Rd soon to open reliant on bus access residents/visitors/workers
  • Access to library and other facilities in centre of Caversham for above residents
  • More direct to walk from southern end Albert Road but pedestrian access down St Peter’s Hill dangerously narrow and steep
  • Tried cutting out Priest Hill before: unsuccessfully
Diversion up Oakley Road
  • Congested road as route to several schools
  • Dangerous junction where Kidmore Road bisects Oakley Road, history of accidents.  Lollipop Lady employed for children’s safety
  • Problematic getting double deckers up Oakley Road’s hill in winter?
  • Parking in level section of Oakley Road congested. This would exacerbate the issue
Cutting out Highmore Road and section of A4074 also deeply unpopular
  • Stay a While club for elderly in Methodist Church Hall reliant on No 22
  • Extra distance and time to nearest bus stop for Upper Warren Avenue/west of A4074 big deterrent
  • Alternative Thameslink service frequently misses out sections of A4074 due to congestion
  • Reading Buses' season tickets not useable on Thames Travel
Diversion along Richmond Road
  • Richmond Road is very narrow, no space for parked vehicle on both sides
General points
  • Consultation too short, web only and its questionable legality
  • Reading Buses should first consult on why more people do not use the pink routes
  • By changing the 11 pm to 10.45 pm, bus pass holders could use it for free. This would align with the usual ¼ to the hour service
  • Reading Buses should take fresh look at pricing. Short distance passengers should pay less to incentivise using the bus
  • Link No 22 route to onwards route to RBH from same bus stop

Friday, 13 October 2017

Have Your Say on Proposed Changes to Caversham's Buses

Reading Buses has launched a consultation about proposed changes to the pink bus routes which service Caversham.  The consultation closes on 31 October.  Details of the consultation can be viewed on Reading Buses' website.

Facebook group has been set up for those opposed to the proposed changes. UPDATE: A drop in meeting has been arranged in St Andrew's hall, St Andrew's Road at 4 pm tomorrow, Saturday 14 October. The purpose is to help raise awareness of Reading Buses' consultation and mobilise helpers.
Proposed Changes to Bus Routes, axing the number 24

The main changes for the number 22 which serves my Ward and the rest of Caversham Heights are:
  • Re-routed away from Priest Hill, The Mount and much of Albert Road, instead going further along Hemdean Road then up Oakley Road
  • Omitting stretch of the A4074 and Highmoor Road, instead turning into Richmond Road to loop back
  • Increased frequency to every 20 minutes (from every 30 minutes)
  • Converted to double deck buses
Revised Proposed Changes to Bus Routes
Further Update: Following critical responses to the above proposals, Reading Buses published a revised proposals.  Also due to pressure, the deadline has been extended to Friday 10 November.

Even if you responded to the original proposals, do please study the revised proposals before responding a second time.

Do either email your views to or put them in writing to: Caversham Consultation, Reading Buses, Great Knollys Street, Reading RG1 7HH.

Requests have been made to Reading Buses to hold a public meeting. If and when a date is fixed I will update this post.

Chance to Win Money by Recycling More Glass

In order to raise recycling rates the re3 waste partnership has launched a prize draw for groups (eg school, local charity or community group) to win up to £1000.  

There will be 5 winners in each area: Bracknell Forest, Reading and Wokingham.  Fill out the application form for a chance to win!

Groups have been asked to commit to taking glass to re3 bring banks, thereby decreasing the amount currently chucked into residual waste which goes to landfill.  Not only is it better for glass to be recycled, but it also saves the tax payer money.

More information can be found on re3's website.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Mapledurham Playing Fields: Why Making an Exception is Right for Our Community

Two buildings are needed urgently for our community: a permanent home for The Heights school and a refurbished/rebuilt Pavilion.
Proposed school shown outlined in red

A consultation on two proposals is closing on Monday 25 September.  Only the school bid is fully funded and will deliver both buildings.  This in a nutshell is why I am supporting building the school on a corner of Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF).  

For those simply wishing to access the information and fill out the online consultation, this is the RBC web link.   If instead you are happy to give your permission for the form to be completed on your behalf in support of the school, type in your details here.  Further information is also available

If you are still unsure how to respond, the bid for the school comes with £1.36 million from the Education Funding and Skills Agency which must be invested solely on the MPF Trust.  Part of the money will be spent on restoring/rebuilding the Pavilion, with the balance being used to enhance other MPF recreational facilities, potentially broadening its sporting appeal whilst making the land more sustainable.

Naturally many residents instinctively are against anything being built on MPF.  After all, the land was left in Trust for recreational purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of Reading Borough and the Parish of Mapledurham.  However residents were consulted on 5 possible sites for The Heights and MPF came top.  The school will take up less than 5% of MPF at the same time as injecting much needed funding into the MPF Trust.  This will enhance and conserve the rest of MPF. Big community events, footballers and other sports groups will continue to have many acres of playing fields to use.

MPF is protected from development in the Local Plan and by national planning law.  It would continue to be just as protected regardless of having the school built on a corner of it.  To give even more reassurance, question 4 of the consultation should be ticked as it asks if the Trustees (ie Reading Borough Council) should take steps to impose a legal restriction on the remainder of the Ground (MPF) in order to ensure that it can only be used by the Charity for recreational purposes in the future.

An alternative "Fit4All" proposal has been put forward by a local community group called the MPF Action Group (MPFAG) which set up the charity Mapledurham Playing Fields Foundation.  This is an ambitious proposal with very optimistic projections of income growth alongside insufficient cost allowances. The works to restore/rebuild the Pavilion would be phased over time which means user groups’ return would be delayed. There are no guarantees as to when or if the money needed would be available: the plan may not be fundable and it is reliant on Reading taxpayers providing an ongoing subsidy.  Lastly, the group is against the school being built on MPF so the Fit4All proposal does not provide the required primary school places.

As shown I believe the choice is clear: the only way for our community to have both its needs met is to support the school proposal which also will greatly enhance the amenity value of MPF.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

M4 Closure between Junctions 12 and 13 this Weekend

From 9 pm Friday, 31 March, the M4 will be closed between Junctions 12 and 13 until 6 am Monday 3 April 2017 for bridge refurbishment works.

Highways England's contractors, Kier, have written to me in my capacity as a local councillor so I can alert others.  Diversions will be in place via the A4 through Newbury, Thatcham and Woolhampton.  Kier is encouraging people to consider the following alternative options:

  • From west to east and vice versa A339 and A33 or the A404, M40, A34
  • From the north the M40 and A404
  • From the south the M3 and A33

Significant delays are expected during the weekend.

If you have any questions or you'd like to know about the work in more detail, please log your enquiry through Highways England's customer control centre:

Phone: 0300 123 5000
Post: Highways England, Bridge House, Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, GU1 4LZ

Monday, 23 January 2017

Mapledurham Pavilion: One Year on from Closure

Saturday 21 January marked a year since Reading Borough Council (RBC) closed the majority of Mapledurham Pavilion to the public.  In advance of this unwelcome anniversary the Warren and District Residents Association (WADRA) sent me a letter urging me to take the following action immediately:
  • Request RBC to prepare Tender Documents for the refurbishment work, based on recent survey works
  • RBC to invite Tenders for the work from local contractors asap
I copy below my response to WADRA:

Dear Robin

Thank you for your letter dated 19 January 2017.

It is highly regrettable that the main part of Mapledurham Pavilion has been closed to the public since 21 January last year.

You will be aware that on numerous occasions I have highlighted at public RBC meetings (Policy Committee and MPF Sub Committee) the huge difficulties/inconvenience this is causing User Groups.  I have repeatedly stated the User Groups’ request for the Pavilion to be refurbished/rebuilt as soon as possible.  In answer to your two questions, back in March 2016 I formally asked Cllr Lovelock, Leader of RBC: 

  • To ensure that there was no further delay in rebuilding and reopening the Pavilion for RBC to undertake the preparatory work including obtaining the necessary permissions to allow tenders to be advertised in 3 months’ time to implement the rebuilding of the Pavilion in partnership with WADRA
  • Advertise tenders immediately it is clear that the Pavilion will be unaffected by proposals from the EFA
  • This preparatory work should be undertaken within RBC’s revenue costs and not charged to the capital fund allocated for the rebuilding
However, my request for the above three points to be added to the Policy Committee’s recommended actions was not granted at that time.

Moving forward to 15 December 2016, you may remember as you were present that at the last MPF Management Committee meeting, RBC’s report to the Sub Committee for 20 December was discussed (Agenda item 5, Pavilion’s condition and the draft accounts).  Grant Thornton stated that RBC’s Property Services had been commissioned to reassess the options and costs for refurbishment and/or partial rebuilding of the Pavilion.

I would draw your attention to paragraph 4.7 where the report stated that “the affordability of this work [complete refurbishment or partial rebuilding] will not be known until this assessment is undertaken and the funding is limited to the £85k currently in the Council’s capital programme.  It is believed WADRA’s position remains that they are unwilling to release funds until any proposal from the EFA to build a school on the Playing Fields is rejected”.

My recollection of the Sub Committee’s outcome was that the following action was agreed: “That a decision is made on either refurbishing or replacing Mapledurham Pavilion after both the implications of any proposals from the Education Funding Agency, or other parties, are considered and affordability established”.  In other words, the go ahead was given for officers to prepare tender documents for the refurbishment work.

Agreement needed to prevent further delay

I hope you will agree with me that as soon as RBC’s Property Services have prepared the specification and other necessary documents in order to be able to let a tender for the refurbishment/partial rebuilding of the Pavilion there should be no delay.  Also that there should be a commitment that RBC’s Section 106 monies and the fund raised monies in WADRA’s bank account will be released so that works can commence.

In order to release the community funds explicitly raised for the refurbishment/rebuilding of the Pavilion, please will WADRA’s committee reconsider its decision to withhold these funds until the EFA’s proposal is ruled out?  Officers in the past have made it clear that RBC’s £85k is an insufficient amount in itself to pay for the minimum works necessary to reopen the Pavilion.

I look forward to hearing from you once you have consulted your committee.

Kind regards