Wokingham Liberal Democrats are demanding that the Barkham Road level crossing be sorted out once and for all.
Currently barriers are closed for more than 20 minutes in every hour, causing traffic turmoil. If Airtrack, the proposed train service which would run through Wokingham to link Reading with Heathrow Airport, goes ahead, barrier closures would increase to more than half an hour in every hour throughout the day.
Cllr Prue Bray, leader of the Wokingham Liberal Democrats, attacked the Conservatives’ objections to the Airtrack proposals as being completely inadequate at last week’s council meeting.
Cllr Bray said, “Local Conservatives have failed to stand up for Wokingham once again. They have put forward shamefully weak objections to the Airtrack proposals which they are prepared to withdraw in the future. It doesn’t seem to matter that these proposals have been overwhelmingly condemned by the public. Wokingham residents deserve a council which puts them first.”
Cllr Bray also noted that she believed that the situation would deteriorate further if Network Rail goes ahead with its plans to connect Reading, via Wokingham, with the Channel Tunnel line, as revealed in last week’s Wokingham Times.
Wokingham Liberal Democrats have been angered by Conservative-run Wokingham Borough Council’s failure to deliver on the promise to provide its tenants with houses which meet the Decent Homes Standard.
In both 2007 and 2008, the Conservatives assured Lib Dem Councillors Malcolm Armstrong and Phil Challis that they were confident that all council-owned properties would meet the Decent Homes Standard by 2010.
Yet only 56.7% of properties are currently known to meet the Decent Homes Standard. With no contractor yet in place to carry out the work, and with no money in the kitty, the commitment to have all the work done by 2010 just cannot be met.
The Wokingham Times has highlighted the appalling conditions that council house tenant David Penn and his family have been forced to live in, even after ‘improvements’ had been undertaken to their flat.
Cllr Phil Challis (Lib Dem councillor for Loddon Ward in Woodley) said, “I do not think that it is right that people should have to live in such dreadful conditions. In 2008, the Conservatives told me that they were categorically committed to delivering Decent Homes to all the council’s tenants by 2010, but they haven’t and they won’t be able to do so. Worse than that, when we raised the issue, a Tory councillor said it didn’t matter and that the standard never was achievable in the first place! They have failed their residents. It just goes to show that commitments from the Conservatives aren’t worth the paper they are written on.”
Information is leaking out about the latest plans for savage cuts to Woodley and Earley’s public transport. It appears that a public consultation has been hidden on the Reading Buses website since 22nd October with responses due by 4th November.
Phil Challis, Lib Dem Borough Councillor for Loddon, said “I am appalled that Reading Buses have not been more open about these new plans. As Lib Dem councillors in Woodley we hauled James Freeman of Reading Buses into a meeting when the last plans were announced in the summer. It appears that this time they are trying to sneak these plans through without people realising”.
Under the new plans Reading Buses will scrap the No62. This route provides an important service for key parts of Woodley and Earley, providing a service to The Royal Berks Hospital. This is such a necessary route that up until last year it was funded by Wokingham Borough Council. However funding was withdrawn by the Tory controlled council last year and the route handed over to Reading Buses to run as a commercial service.
Phil Challis said “When the Conservatives stopped the funding for the No 62, I was given assurances that Wokingham Borough Council would consider funding it again if Reading Buses made changes to the service. Far from running it is a commercial route Reading Buses now plan to scrap the route altogether and I will be asking the Tory leadership in Wokingham Borough to maintain this socially necessary route”.
Things are no better on the Woodley Airfield development where the 63/64 routes are to be scrapped and replaced by new 65/66/67 routes. This change will see large parts of the airfield without a service during the day. In addition it will not be possible to get from large parts of Woodley to the doctors at the Loddon Vale Practice which will again hit older residents.
Gareth Epps, Lib Dem Parliamentary Campaigner for Reading East said, “This seems to be an extraordinary decision to make. At a time when we should be encouraging people to use public transport, major cuts to bus services are being planned. The underhand way in which these cuts have been presented to the public is to be deplored. We have had a huge response to my bus survey. The results help to show the social and economic necessity of these routes to large parts of Woodley and I will be passing the results onto Reading Buses”.