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New bus timetables come into operation next month following council’s £50,000 cut in funding

Changes to the Marlborough to Great Bedwyn bus services come into operation on April 23 -- Shakespeare's traditional birthday -- following Wiltshire Council’s decision to cut its funding to the service by £50,000 a year, not the £90,000 originally proposed.

The changes were reviewed at a meeting Transition Marlborough’s transport group hosted with the council’s transport officers who are responsible for drawing up the new Bedwyn bus timetable.

Wiltshire councillor and Cabinet member Richard Gamble and Steve Smith from the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group also attended this meeting, at which Shelley Parker, Marlborough's new town clerk, represented Marlborough Town Council.

“We wanted the new timetable to be adjusted so that the buses would link with as many trains as possible, with a minimum six minute gap before the train arrives,” explained Dr Sam Page, who chairs Transition Marlborough.

“We were also keen to ensure that bus fares are kept as low as possible, facilities are improved for cyclists and we wanted  to look into the possibility of laying on extra buses to serve local events, such as Marlborough’s Jazz Festival and Mop Fair.”

The transport officers explained that the funding cut of £50,000 per year means that, after April 21, the bus service from Marlborough High Street to Bedwyn station will not begin until 10.05am and the last bus back will leave Bedwyn at 19.50pm on week days.

The 07.05am bus to Hungerford, which links with the 07.34 fast train to London Paddington, will be retained.  This means that the following “asymmetric” journey is possible for commuters who want to leave their cars at home and cut carbon emissions.

Valuable concessions will include a £1 only fare for “Early Bird” passengers travelling either to Hungerford or Bedwyn before 10am and to anyone returning from Bedwyn to Marlborough who has a valid train ticket.

The first bus to Hungerford and the last bus from Bedwyn will begin and end in Barton Park, Marlborough.

“Wiltshire Council is willing to lay on extra buses to ferry passengers to and from Bedwyn station during special events, such as the Jazz Festival and Mop Fair,” added Dr Page.

“Marshals can be provided to enable buses to stop in Marlborough town centre during special events.”

Councillor Gamble promised to look into the possibility of installing improved signage, a bus shelter and pull-in, as well as secure cycle racks at Great Bedwyn station.

The Wiltshire Council officers also stressed that the early evening buses may be cancelled after one year if they are not well used.

However, in order to build passenger confidence, the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group are requesting that the train company, currently First Great Western, refund taxi fares for passengers who miss the last bus because their train was delayed.

Transition Marlborough’s transport group members are planning to meet with the Bedwyn bus operator to discuss waiting times.

Extensive consultation carried out by Wiltshire Council to seek the views of users and other interested parties on two draft timetable proposals produced 88 responses to a questionnaire.

Eighteen written responses were received to a letter that was distributed widely to Town and Parish Councils, local councillors, transport user groups, and a range of local and special interest contacts identified by Wiltshire’s area board managers and the council’s equalities team.

A petition with 435 signatures was also received opposing the proposed reductions in service.

The questionnaire and letter summarised the reasons why a reduction in service is necessary, and the rationale for the draft timetables that were proposed, and asked for information about any specific hardship that might result if they were implemented.

The letter drew attention to the possibility of developing local initiatives, through the area boards and community area partnerships, to meet some of the specific needs that might be identified in this way.

Alternative proposals to achieve a similar level of financial saving with less impact were also invited.

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