Bus services including Oxford's park and ride, which could have been axed, have been given a reprieve.

Last month Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel warned that if funding support from the Government was not extended in April, it would have to reduce its network by between 20 and 30 per cent.

This would have included the removal of park and ride services into the centre of Oxford, and some city and rural bus services.

But now Oxford Bus Company has announced that the necessary funding has been found and the services are safe for a further six months.

Read again: Bus services which could be cut without funding

Bus operators across the UK will share £107m in government funding over the next six months to ensure services can continue to run.

Local authorities will also be given an additional £39m. Oxford Bus Company, together with sister companies Thames Travel and Carousel Buses expect they will receive in the region of £2m.

The funding is lower than previous Coronavirus Bus Service Support Grant and Bus Recovery Grant government support schemes - but it will enable existing Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel services to continue for at least a further six months.

Phil Southall, managing director of Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel said: “This is welcome news and we’re very grateful our call to action was heard.

"It protects services in the short term at a time when people need services to return to work, education and leisure activities.

"But unfortunately, the cliff edge has not gone away and we still need to increase patronage by 20% come September to avoid having to make any reductions in services.”

Read more: How Oxford led the way to create park and rides 

The current average patronage across the Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel network is 75% of pre-pandemic levels and the operators confirmed this figure would need to reach 90% by September to fully protect services when the funding expires.

Mr Southall added: “The more patronage we get back, the less impact there will be on services come the end of September.

“There won’t be any immediate changes in our services, but we now need as many people as possible to return to using the bus wherever possible.

Prices on some services have just gone up - for example a return from Abingdon to Oxford on the popular X3 service has gone up from £5 to 5.50, leaving passengers facing the double whammy of the prospect of reduced services and increased fares.

Read more: Tributes paid to former Oxford Lord Mayor Gill Sanders

Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “It is a huge relief that the government has listened to the pleas from passengers, bus operators, and local authorities such as ourselves who warned about the dreadful impact this loss of funding would have on services."

Oxford Mail:

Tom Hayes, cabinet member for green transport and Zero Carbon Oxford at Oxford City Council, said: "Buses are by far the most important form of public transport in Oxford.

“The city council urgently wrote to the Government to raise concerns about the dangers of a funding withdrawal, raising our voices with other big employers, and we welcome the extension of bus recovery grant funding following our letter."

Oxford Mail:

Passengers numbers for the park and ride buses were hit by the pandemic.

The bus company has revealed there were 2.9 million passengers in 2019 but this fell to one million in 2020 and increased slightly to 1.2 million last year.

Oxford Mail:

The city's park and ride network was launched in 1973.

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