"Bring back my 16 to me" sing protestors rallying to save Oxford bus from cuts

Campaigners brought placards and sang a song written for the occasion Credit: Guy Henstock

Campaigners say cuts to bus services in Oxford will leave dozens of vulnerable people isolated. 

A number of routes were axed from January 2 due to challenges caused by the pandemic, which has seen passenger numbers return to only 70% to 75% of pre-Covid levels.

Now more than 1,200 people have signed a petition to reinstate Stagecoach's number 16 route, which runs from Minchery Farm to the city centre.

And as the last number 16 bus arrived in Florence Park Road on New Year's Day, residents turned out to thank the driver, singing "My 16 Lies over the Isis" to the tune of folk song My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean, and carrying placards and lanterns.

Cllr Amar Latif, GP and councillor for the Cowley Ward, said, "This service is a lifeline for many of the most vulnerable in our society and I have heard directly from many concerned residents.

“It is imperative that this decision is reviewed and the number 16 bus is reinstated.

"At a time when we are encouraging people to stop using their cars for alternative forms of transport, it is counter-intuitive to cut this route, and this decision must be reviewed urgently.”

Protestors gathered to thank the driver of the last number 16 bus Credit: Guy Henstock

Cllr Naomi Waite, from Hinksey Park Ward, added, "The number 16 bus is a crucial service that connects Oxford's thriving neighbourhoods.

"Without it our residents would be cut off from advice centres, baby and community groups, mental health services and specialist homes for the elderly.

"As well as the flourishing commercial and hospitality centres in East Oxford and Cowley."

The cuts are a result of a bus network review carried out by Oxfordshire County Council which affects both Stagecoach and Oxford Bus Company Services.

Responding to campaigners in a joint letter on New Year's Eve, the two companies said, “Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that bus passenger numbers have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic and have generally recovered to only 70-75% of pre-Covid levels.

"In recent days this has dropped to 65%.

“Combined with emergency COVID-19 government funding for the bus industry being tapered down, this means that operators have had to reduce costs to prevent substantial operating losses.

"Without taking action, the result may be the provision of all bus services in Oxford becoming uneconomic to operate and operators having to close down.”

They added that a new Oxford Bus Company city 5A service would begin replacing elements of the Stagecoach 16 service.