Twelve enhancements to rural bus services in Oxfordshire have been given funding to keep operating until April 2022.
Oxfordshire County Council will use £275,000 of its existing Local Authority Bus Subsidy Grant (LABSG) from the government to provide short-term interim support to the services which would otherwise have faced withdrawal in August 2021.
Three routes are being saved in full through the interim grant, with the other nine having specific routes, journeys or days of operation supported. The services are:
- 11: Watlington – Oxford (Sunday service, 4 journeys)
- 40: Thame – High Wycombe (Sunday service, hourly)
- 46: Wheatley – Cowley (Monday to Friday service, hourly)
- 47: Lambourn – Swindon (route via Ashbury, Monday to Friday service, 5 journeys)
- 63: Southmoor – Oxford (Monday to Friday service, 5 journeys)
- 233: Woodstock – Witney (Sunday service, hourly)
- 488: Chipping Norton – Banbury (Sunday service, two-hourly)
- H2: Carterton – John Radcliffe Hospital (Sunday service, 2-4 journeys)
- S4: Banbury – Oxford (Monday to Saturday evening service, 2 journeys)
- X8: Chipping Norton – Kingham (Monday to Friday service, 5-6 peak hour journeys)
- X9: Chipping Norton – Witney (Saturday service, enhanced to hourly)
- X38: Henley – Wallingford (Sunday service, hourly)
The longer-term future of the 12 bus services will be decided as part of work to develop the bus service improvement plan, which will come back to the council for approval in October.
This follows a decision by the council’s cabinet on 22 June to set up an ‘enhanced partnership’, and it will invite all of Oxfordshire’s local bus operators to participate in it. The aim is to encourage more passengers back on to the buses as part of the government’s national bus strategy.
At the same meeting, the cabinet also agreed to submit an expression of interest in the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas scheme to support the government’s Road to Zero Strategy for transition to zero emission transport by 2050.
Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “Helping to improve the county’s bus services is one of the key aims of this administration when it comes to transport.
“These are challenging but exciting times for the industry, and we will be working in partnership with the county’s bus operators in the future to make bus travel more attractive. In the meantime, we are happy to be able to keep these 12 enhanced services in operation for the people who rely on them.”
Andrew Pulham, director of Pulhams & Sons Coaches – one of the affected operators, said: “We are delighted to work in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council to continue providing services that offer essential journeys for the rural villages and towns that they serve. We look forward to welcoming old and new passengers on board.”