On Monday 21st November, Reading West MP Alok Sharma and Tilehurst Councillor Sandra Vickers held a meeting with Reading Borough Council (RBC) to discuss the route of the number 33 bus which runs through Tilehurst. The route of the 33 was changed at the end of September and no longer includes the Westwood Glen/Chapel Hill loop.
The meeting, which took place in the Civic Centre, was a follow up to the meeting with the Council on 24th October. Joining Alok and Sandra were local residents Vivien & Trevor Aitken, John Bannister, Marlene Bennett, Jenny Cottee, James & Janet Foster, Sue How, Pat & Ian MacDonald, Alan & Wendy Norman, Michael & Lulu Perry, Jennie Taylor-Clague, Brenda Vowles, Jean Winchester and Dorothy Wood. RBC was represented by Pat Baxter, Head of Transport, and Reading Transport by Chief Executive James Freeman.
The residents explained to the Council and Reading Transport that over thirty residents from Westwood Glen and Chapel Hill met on 10th November to discuss the changes to the number 33 bus service and alternative proposals which would see a reinstatement of the bus route along the Westwood Glen/Chapel Hill loop. The residents’ proposal is that all outbound buses travelling towards Turnhams Farm serve the loop, whilst inbound buses travelling towards the town centre continue to take the current route along Lower Elmstone Drive. The residents pointed out that this option would not require a change to the current timetable, as the extra distance involved is negligible, and would not cause any confusion amongst users as there would still be a single straightforward route and timetable.
The alternative proposals developed by the local residents on 10th November were presented to the Council and Reading Transport for consideration. Mr Freeman said that he would review these proposals over a two week period and revert with his conclusions on their feasibility.
Mr Freeman explained that if a revised route for the 33 bus is agreed, Reading Buses will still need to follow the statutory 56 day process to register the proposed change with the Traffic Commissioner, before any change can be made to the route of the 33 bus.
Residents also raised the issue of the placement of stops along the route, suggesting that a stop near to the junction of Westwood Glen and Lower Elmstone Drive would be welcome. Mr Freeman explained that re-siting bus stops can be very difficult due to a number of factors. The meeting therefore agreed that efforts should be concentrated in the first instance on the route of the 33 bus, with further consideration given to the issue of bus stop locations at a later date if necessary.
Alok said: “I was pleased that Reading Transport was willing to listen to residents’ concerns and engage with them in a meaningful way. I look forward to hearing from James Freeman in two weeks’ time when he has had a chance to consider the residents’ proposal that outbound buses serve the Westwood Glen/Chapel Hill loop.”
Sandra said: “I think the meeting represented a very positive way forward. I hope that we can reach a compromise which will allow residents continued full use of their local bus service.”
Dorothy Wood, Westwood Glen resident who has been co-leading the residents’ campaign, said: “We made good progress during the meeting and I look forward to hearing from James Freeman in the next two weeks with regards to our proposal. I am also still hoping that, at a later date, we can look at the issue of providing an additional bus stop to serve Westwood Glen residents for the Reading bound direction.”
Patricia MacDonald, Westwood Glen resident who has been co-leading the residents’ campaign, said: “This was a constructive meeting and I hope that James Freeman accepts our compromise proposal so that we can achieve a satisfactory resolution to this matter. Ideally, we would of course have preferred alternate buses in both directions to have covered this part of the route, but we do appreciate that there are operational considerations from Reading Buses’ point of view, and we are now likely to have a useful service.”
Photo: Alok with Tilehurst traders and residents at the Civic Centre