January Service Change in Full Swing
Reading Buses made a number of route and timetable changes from 10th January, principally with the aim of cutting costs, but also to revamp and simplify the complicated loop routes around Woodley. A fleet reshuffle has followed allowing recently double decked routes 4/5/6 to regain branded vehicles in the form of four Olympuses freed up from other routes.
838 is the first to emerge from the paint shop. The new route number ovals are a lot more squashed than those used in the past.
The new Woodley service is basically made up of two easy to understand routes, the 13 to Tippings Lane via Shepherd's Hill and 14 to Colemans Moor Road via Bulmershe. These combine to provide a 15 minute frequency along London Road. At peak periods this is increased to a 10 minute frequency through the addition of route 12 to Woodley Airfield via Bulmershe. This is however complicated by evening route 13A which combines the 12, 13 and 14 to provide an hourly service, and the award of an additional contract to Thames Travel to provide additional journeys on route 12 throughout the day. The benefit of all this is that passengers can now catch the same number bus in both directions, but the dis-benefit is that they no longer have the option of catching the slow route back if the fast one has just gone.
The route within the Town Centre has also been changed in favour of new shorter loop. Buses now run direct to the Station via Forbury Road, but as a consequence no longer stop outside the Oracle, at St Marys Butts or on Friar Street. However, it has always been the case that the vast majority of passengers would get off at the first stop in the Town Centre opposite Jacksons Corner and then walk through to their destination, particularly as progress around the Town Centre loop was often slow so one could walk from Jacksons to the Station more quickly. The new terminus in Blagrave Street is a short walk from Friar Street, Broad Street and the Station and saves quite a considerable amount of time. Passengers can also stay onboard for Jacksons Corner if they wish.
The branding on 850-4 has been modified with 'Woodley' ovals replacing the old route 63/64 numbers. 848/9 meanwhile have been made surplus and are to be repainted into dark green route 4/5/6 livery. In the meantime they have had their route 63/64 ovals removed without replacement.
Meanwhile in the Tilehurst area the Westwood Glen section of route 15 has transferred onto route 33, with alternate journeys (numbered 33A) going to the old terminus at Turnham's Farm. Whilst each area sees a reduction in frequency as a result, Westwood Glen does at least benefit from a much faster route via Tilehurst Road instead of running through the Dee Road Estate to Oxford Road. The stop at the Station has moved from the bottom of Station Hill up to stop SB formerly used by the Woodley services. This has allowed its previous stop to be removed entirely to create additional layover space. The destination information along the sides and the bottom half of the rear of the vehicles on these routes has been removed and is to be replaced with commercial advertising. Meanwhile the route number ovals remain unchanged, the 33 not making specific reference to the 33A variant.
847 is the first to be fitted with advert frames, and is seen heading for the new terminus of route 15.
Lower Earley has been the scene of almost as much controversy as Woodley, but the service changes are far less radical. The section of the 22 from the Town Centre to Lower Early is reduced from every 30 minutes to hourly, but in all honesty the service always appeared to be very under used. Wokingham Borough Council have stepped in with funding to maintain a 30 minute frequency during peak periods, which appears to make quite a reasonable compromise. At the same time service 62 has been transformed into new service 19 which runs via a slightly different route in order to create a link between the Reading University Central Campus and Bulmershe Campus instead of duplicating the 22 along Whiteknights Road, whilst still maintaining links between Woodley and the Royal Berks Hospital. Again Wokingham Borough Council have stepped in, this time extending the service further into Woodley to provide a more comprehensive replacement for the 62. One does however wonder whether it might have been more economic for the Council to use this route to cover Woodley Airfield during the daytime rather than funding a totally separate additional service. The 19 is operated using Solos and departs from the same stop at the Station as route 9 with which it shares a common section of route. Routes 20/21/22 that also serve the University go from the next stop, whilst the 19 also neatly calls at the Woodley stop on Blagrave Street on its way out of town.
The arrival of Optare Solo 124 from Newbury is the final part of last September's fleet reshuffle, where Darts from Vitality 1/11 have released Solos from Newbury. The Darts were replaced by Solars from route 4/6, with routes 4/6 temporarily converted to Spectras pending the Olympuses freed up by these January changes.
124 at Reading Station today.
Wokingham Borough Council went ahead with their plans to reduce the cost of running the Loddon Bridge Park & Ride service, although on a slightly less drastic basis than might originally happened. The frequency is now every 12-15 minutes instead of every 8-10, which has freed up Olympuses 838/9 for repaint into route 4/5/6 livery. The branding on the rear of the three remaining Olympuses has yet to be updated with the revised frequencies.
Caversham saw the 15 minute frequencies on each of it's main services - the 22, 23 and 24 reduced to 20 minutes, however the frequency to Amersham Road was doubled to every 30 minutes with the introduction of new direct route 29 to complement route 27. Optare Solo 111 has been dedicated to these routes, and has received temporary "£1 Shuttle" branding to promote the reduced fare promotion which has been extended from December until April.
111 at Reading Station today.
Finally, Southcote/Ford's Farm/Beansheaf saw route 26 reduced from 10 to 12 minutes and flagship route 17 has also been reduced from every 7-8 to every 10 minutes for most of the day. Across the fleet most of the internal branding on the vehicles has been updated with information about the new routes and frequencies as appropriate, and also now has designated spaces available for commercial advertising.
Heaviest Snow for 30 Years Hits Berkshire
Some of the heaviest snow for nearly 30 years started to hit Reading yesterday evening after working its way South across the UK during the day. Reading Buses were forced to suspend all services after 7pm, with only a skeleton service on routes 1, 17, 23, 24, 26, 63 and 64 running today to various revised routes as roads became passable. About 20cm of snow (8 inches) have fallen in central Reading so far, with sub zero temperatures predicted to freeze everything up over night. Regular updates have been made on the Reading Buses website throughout the disruption.
833 and 830 in Friar Street running short workings on the 23/24 - the 23 via Reading Bridge, Gosbrook Road, George Street and Henley Road to County Boundary and the 24 via Caversham Bridge, Prospect Street and Peppard Road to the Buckingham Drive roundabout.
A single bus, 1027, made it out on the 1 to Newbury. All other services in Newbury were cancelled.
At least a couple of buses, including diesel powered 1107, were running a shuttle service on the 17 between the Town Centre loop and Norcot.
819 approaching Reading Station along Station Road and 825 leaving for Calcot in the distance. Route 26 was running to Calcot via Bath Road instead of the normal route, officially omitting the Station in practise most buses managed to serve it in the early afternoon.
Routes 63/64 were running between Central Reading and Shepherd's Hill top via London Road and Shepherd's Hill by 1415.
Meanwhile Thames Travel were also advising people not to travel after 8pm yesterday evening due to the weather forecasts. Today they were bravely maintaining services on the 144 and X39/X40 in Reading mainly using Mini Pointer Darts, with just one MAN appearing as an exception. The X39/X40 appeared to have been split in Wallingford to make this possible. Tonight they are cancelling all services after 1900, and resuming at 0655 tomorrow morning subject to weather conditions.
257 and 506 taking a break at Reading Station.
457 struggled to turn around at the bottom of Station Hill, and is seen here receiving assistance from fellow drivers and some passing members of the public.
First Berkshire were running some local buses in Slough to revised routes, but nothing in Bracknell or Reading.
This snow comes just two weeks after heavy snow brought the town to a standstill during the afternoon and evening rush on Monday 21st December. On that day the snow started early in the afternoon, which combined with Christmas Shoppers and early workplace closures led to total gridlock well into the night. Bus services were thrown into chaos too with a number of vehicles stranded in hilly parts of the town. Some Reading Buses drivers had to stay with their buses for up to six hours when they were stuck in the snow and others were forced to spend the night at the Great Knollys Street depot because they couldn't get home. Engineering staff were clearing the yard and on the Tuesday morning a complete team from the workshop were out clearing snow from Station Hill.