Oxfordshire science and technology park announces enhanced services and a new partner

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Bus and shuttle services to Milton Park in Didcot are to see changes and a new operator from January 2021

Milton Park, a major science and technology location in Oxfordshire, is to partner with Go-Ahead Group-owned Thames Travel to provide a new shuttle bus service between Didcot Parkway and the Park, and, thanks to additional funding from Oxfordshire County Council, provide an increased number of fast bus services from Oxford (including the East of the city and Headington’s Life Sciences District) and Wantage and more areas within Didcot, which it says will benefit the Park’s occupiers, its visitors and the local communities.

The new contract will commence in January 2021 and will offer Milton Park’s occupiers further travel options with more frequent buses between the railway station and the Park, longer operating hours to suit new and differing work patterns as a result of Covid-19 and unlimited free bus use all year round to Didcot Parkway, therefore making people’s commute easier.

Currently, three shuttle buses operate between 0700hrs and 1900hrs running every 10 minutes at peak times and 15 minutes off-peak. The new service will operate between 0600hrs and 2330hrs and offer a peak time-frequency bus every eight minutes and 10 minutes off-peak.

Due to the investment from MEPC, Milton Park will continue to offer an annual £20 bus pass for its occupiers from Didcot Parkway, but will also now extend this to the whole of a new ‘Didcot Zone’ which covers Great Western Park as well as other areas around Didcot town. This subsidised pass will entitle Milton Park occupiers to unlimited free bus use all year round. There will be two Milton Park-branded buses dedicated to the route.

The extended local bus service will see additional services from Oxford and Wantage with buses every 30 minutes, rather than every hour, and a new faster route to and from Wantage and Grove. The partnership will also include an app to help people find out when their bus will be available and its estimated arrival time.

The 22 ultra-low emission Euro VI buses on these routes will have WiFi, USB charging points, contactless ‘free flow’ tap in and out machines and fare caps so people are always charged the cheapest fare.

Phil Southall, Managing Director, Thames Travel said: “To have been awarded the new contract with Milton Park to provide frequent shuttle bus services to the park from Didcot Parkway Rail Station makes us very proud. This new partnership has also allowed us to connect Milton Park directly with East Oxford and Headington’s Life Sciences District, provide more local and later connections within Didcot and to surrounding villages, and provide a new, faster link to Wantage within our ‘Connector’ brand of services.

“The significant investment that MEPC is making in the new contract will be supplemented by further funding we have been able to obtain from local housing developments in Didcot’s Garden Town with helpful assistance from Oxfordshire County Council.

“All of this will ensure that Milton Park will now have unrivalled direct bus connections to a wider range of places, with faster journey times, improved ticketing options and more frequent services, to make travelling to the park by bus easier and better than ever to encourage more sustainable travel. Around 15 new jobs will be created at our Didcot depot to operate these new services and we very much look forward to working with Milton Park on achieving its sustainable travel ambitions and its 2040 Vision.”

Veronica Reynolds, Sustainable Travel Advisor, Milton Park said: “Bus travel between Milton Park and the station and other areas of Oxfordshire is integral to our sustainable travel 2040 Vision ambitions to support vital local services.

“Following consultations with our Milton Park Travel Forum, which consists of representatives from most of the major businesses on the Park, it was clear that more comprehensive bus services were a priority for many of our occupiers and key workers. Our investment and the changes will give occupiers even more sustainable travel options from neighbouring towns and villages and into Oxford. In addition to the recent introduction of e-bikes to our successful bike loan scheme, an improved pedestrian and cycleway route and imminent plans to reduce the speed limit throughout the Park to 20mph, the new bus contract will benefit both occupiers and visitors to Milton Park. We would like to thank our current provider Courtney Coaches which has provided a loyal and really valued service over the years.”

The new contract will replace the current shuttle bus contract which is held by Courtney Coaches, which has been part of Reading Buses since March 2019.

Thames Travel believes that TUPE will apply on the transfer of the Milton Park shuttle bus contract from Courtney Coaches. Phil Southall added: “Any current Courtney Coaches driver working on the Milton Park shuttle service will be offered the opportunity to join Thames Travel and we look forward to welcoming them into our business.

“Any colleagues who join us under TUPE have the option of remaining on their existing terms and conditions of employment or transferring to the Thames Travel terms and conditions if they consider these to be more favourable.

“Now that the change in contractor has been confirmed, we will be working with Courtney Coaches to establish their position with regards to TUPE. Following these discussions, we will be in touch directly with the affected drivers to advise them on the next steps and to discuss any questions or concerns they may have in relation to this change.”