The issue concerning the No 12 bus route is that it does not offer residents a feasible route to Royal Berkshire Hospital compared with the 19a bus it replaced. The long journey times and limited running hours make getting to hospital and back for most appointments impractical, and the winding routes confusing to many elderly people.
For Latest update on this service: Replacement Bus Decision
ACER – The Whitegates Residents’ Association: Draft Response to WBC No 12 Bus Consultation – October 2017
In September 2017 the 19a/c service which travelled along Church Road, Culver Lane and Eastcourt Ave in the Whitegates ward of Earley and which therefore served some 700 households i.e. the residents living on these roads and those immediately off these roads (Palmerstone Road, Pitts Lane (part), Milton Road, Anderson Ave, Oldfield Close, Whitegates Lane, Hilltop Road (part), High Tree Drive, Byron Rd, Barrington Close, Mays Close) was replaced by the new number 12 service.
The number 12 service differs from the 19a/c in that:
- It does not run during peak hours – first service is 09.25 from Culver Lane and there are no buses back from the town centre to Culver Lane after the 13.30.
- The bus no longer travels from Culver Lane along Church Road (via Eastcourt Ave) and Whiteknights Rd to the hospital and then into Reading town centre. It now travels from Culver Lane back into Woodley and then through Maiden Erlegh before going along Whiteknights Road and then to the hospital and the town centre. The journey from Eastcourt Ave to the hospital now takes at least 45 mins – often much longer.
The impact of these changes on the significant number of Whitegates residents who live within the ‘catchment’ of the original 19a/c service is:
- There is no bus service to the RBH hospital, to Reading town centre or to Woodley town centre (including doctors surgeries) before 9.25am, no bus back from Reading or the hospital after the 13.30 service and no bus back from Woodley after 14.15. Residents dependent on public transport wishing to use the hospital, doctors, dentists or other services in either Reading or Woodley are now severely limited as to when they can travel, and thus when make appointments if these are needed.
- The bus now takes much longer from Whitegates to the hospital (at least 40 mins) which in practice makes it impossible to attend any appointment much before 10.30 am. It now takes nearly an hour to reach Friar Street in Reading town centre.
- The bus no longer travels along the part of Church Road from Eastcourt Ave to the Wokingham road and thus no longer serves residents who live at the south end of Church Road and on High Tree Drive, Barrington Close, Mays Close and the top of Anderson Ave.
ACER Comments on the current service and the proposed alternatives
In response to WBC consultation on the future of the new number 12 service in September 2018, ACER would like to make the following points:
- The majority of Whitegates residents who used the 19a/c were elderly and / or reduced mobility. The Whitegates area of Earley requires a regular and efficient service at least hourly (including during peak periods) which links residents to the RBH, Reading town centre and Woodley town centre and thus enables residents (particularly those who are elderly or disabled) to access necessary services (hospital clinics, doctors surgeries, dentists, opticians, banks)
- The current 12 bus service is not fit for purpose as it does not satisfy these requirements
- Many residents who used to use the 19a/c to access these services do not use the 12 because it does not run at the time needed and it takes too long to get to the hospital. The current survey of passenger numbers on the 12 may well provide WBC with useful data on where passengers board and alight along the route of this service but will provide no indication of latent demand e. those passengers who would use the service if it were more convenient to do so.
- The MERA proposals to streamline the current 12 bus service so that it serves Woodley and Maiden Erlegh and to use the numbers 127/129 and 128 etc to cover the Whitegates area, including Culver Lane, is a good idea in theory but ACER would need confirmation that WBC were willing to discuss this option for September 2018 with Courtney Coaches and some indication that Courtney Coaches would consider it worthwhile to deviate from their direct route into town before they could support this option.
- The proposal for a ‘shuttle’ taking passengers to ‘hubs’ may well be appropriate for some parts of Woodley and Earley but unlikely to be suitable for the elderly / less mobile in Whitegates who would find the additional journey time and waiting at bus stops involved in the transfer too difficult and the smaller buses difficult to board and alight from (unless there were specially designed mini-buses).
ACER would therefore recommend the current 12 be replaced by 2 services (running hourly, including through the peak period) – one linking Woodley with the RBH and Reading town centre, via Culver Lane, and one linking Maiden Erlegh with the RBH and Reading town centre.
It is recognised that the link between Woodley and Maiden Erlegh would be lost but the priorities are surely to get the less mobile residents in Whitegates to Woodley and to the hospital as efficiently as possible.