We have had a very busy week this week so this post will be split into two parts! We have continued collecting research for the project, continued gathering the opinions of local residents through questionnaires and focus groups and met with several key stakeholders in the Whitley area. This post will focus on our meetings.
In our first meeting this week, we spoke to the Chief Executive of Reading Buses who explained how the bus routes are organised in Reading, whilst also giving us an insight into the costs of running a bus. We also learnt about the 5 and 6 buses that run in Whitley and discovered a lot of useful information for our project. After our meeting, we had discovered just how popular the bus service in Reading is – the 5th highest for bus use in the UK!
The next meeting was with the Council, in which we explained the work we are doing on the project and discussed possible collaborations. In this meeting we also talked about the feasibility of a community transport scheme and discussed how a community mini bus would need to meet the needs of locals. It was noted that if it was to succeed then a lot of work would have to be sorted before hand looking at costings, timetabling, taxing, bookings and sustainability.
Our third meeting was with ReadiBus, the dial-a-ride bus service for people with restricted mobility in and around Reading. Here, General Manager Peter Absolon gave us a tour of their grounds and spoke to us about the service and how it all works. It was really interesting to gain an understanding of how the service was managed on a day to day basis and we also discovered that ReadiBus was started out of a transport project at the University of Reading!
The final meetings this week took place at the University where we spoke to both Ann Westgarth, the Community Relations Manager and Karen Stanbridge, who is from the University’s travel team. With the Community Relations Manager, we spoke about a number of ways of widening participation both in and around the University as well as how best to engage University students in the community. With the travel team, we discussed the transport part of the project. Karen helped us start thinking about sustainability and we talked about the feasibility of a community transport scheme and other methods of possible transportation in Whitley.
Next week, we will be at the Hexham AGM and the Academy Sports Centre so we will be updating you about how that goes. Remember to stay tuned for the latest updates across our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also fill in our questionnaire here and find the latest of our blog posts on the Big Local Whitley site here, or on our WordPress blog here.