Bus services vital across rural West Oxfordshire
West Oxfordshire District Council’s Cabinet has agreed to send a ‘strong and clear’ response to Oxfordshire County Council that the District Council considers that the bus services currently operating represent the absolute minimum required in a rural district such as West Oxfordshire and that the level of subsidy provided must be protected and maintained.
The response will be made to Oxfordshire County Council’s area review of bus services it subsidises in the Witney, Woodstock and Chipping Norton areas. A number of these routes not only link rural villages to the district’s market towns, but also have the potential, subject to timetable adjustments, to link to railway stations and further onward travel.
Cllr Barry Norton, West Oxfordshire District Council Leader said, “We must send a very clear and robust consultation response to Oxfordshire County Council that these bus services are vital to our communities. They are the absolute minimum required in a rural district like ours and I believe the issue of rural transport should be a very high priority for Oxfordshire County Council.
“For many people in our rural district they are an essential lifeline for accessing shops, getting to work and visiting health and other service centres. They are tremendously important to prevent people feeling isolated and for community cohesion.
“We have an ageing population and predictions are for our district to have an ever increasing percentage of older people. Our elderly and vulnerable residents are particularly likely to rely on local bus services.
“Links to the District’s smaller, but very important service centres beyond the main market towns of Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton must be preserved as the service centres of Bampton, Burford, Charlbury, Eynsham, Long Hanborough and Woodstock complement these main towns in providing access to services and provide an important link for the smaller rural communities across West Oxfordshire. The Villager service is also a very vital part of the chain.”
West Oxfordshire is a predominantly rural district with over half the population living in rural settlements. It is one of the most sparsely populated districts in South East England.
The District has a high proportion of older people with recent census data showing that the over 60s age group comprises 25% of the population. The numbers aged over 85 is higher than the national average and growing – currently there are 2,800 and this figure is forecast to expand to 4,400 by 2021.
Outside the main towns the proportion of older people is higher. For example, 41% of people aged 60+ live in Burford (highest figure), compared with 8% (lowest) living in Carterton North East (primarily a new housing development).
More information about the bus services consultation is on Oxfordshire County Council’s website.
The above decision was made at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 13 November. Cabinet’s decision is subject to the usual call-in period which runs until Friday 22 November.
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