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Witney’s bus future ‘looking very bleak’

Campaigners have called on Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron to ride on West Oxfordshire’s busiest service, which is under threat from council cuts.

Bus Users Oxford challenged Mr Cameron to use the X9 Witney to Chipping Norton bus ‘to see how important the service is to his constituents’.

The Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) subsidised X9 carries more than 100,000 passengers every year making it the most popular in West Oxfordshire, Bus Users Oxford chairman Hugh Jaeger said.
He added: “I think we can safely call it David Cameron’s local bus.

“He should ride on the bus for an hour. It might be a good way to meet his constituents.
“I warmly encourage him to do that.”

OCC’s budget for subsidised buses could be cut by £3.7 million on Tuesday, meaning bus operators may be forced to drop services or risk running them at a financial loss.

The council is in the process of making £292m in cuts from 2010 to 2018 and now has to find another £69m by 2020 due to grants slashed by central Government.

Finance director at Pulham and Sons which runs the X9, Kathryn Pulham, said: “The removal of this important service will be a great loss to the rural community in Oxfordshire.”

She added: “We are awaiting formal notification from Oxfordshire County Council on what the level of cut will be.
“If the subsidy is completely removed we would hope to continue with the X9 service but on an altered timetable.
“If this does come to fruition we hope the local community will continue to support the service to ensure its long term financial sustainability.”

The X9 service runs between Witney and Chipping Norton through Charlbury.
Other West Oxfordshire services which could be impacted by the cuts include the number 11 between Witney and Oxford, the number 19 between Carterton and Witney, the 64 between Carterton and Swindon, and the 213 circular in Witney.
West Oxfordshire district councillor Andrew Coles said: “The future is looking very bleak for buses in West Oxfordshire.
“To lose the bus services would be disastrous for residents who rely on them.”

Leader of OCC Ian Hudspeth said: “It should be remembered that this is now our sixth consecutive year of having to make cuts and by 2020 we will have completed a whole decade of savings.

“Our priority is service for the most vulnerable – children at risk of abuse and neglect and adults in care.”
Bus Users Oxford said the X9 served 111,000 passengers in 2013.
Mr Jaeger said: “It’s everybody that uses that bus
.
“People mustn’t get the idea that rural buses are used primarily by old people. It’s entire communities that use them.”
Mr Cameron’s office did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

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