2022 – No. 46 for Le Manoir: Raymond Blanc funds local bus service to the restaurant | Transportation

With the long-term decline of rural buses and a funding crisis putting more roads at risk, a surprising service has appeared on the UK transport map: bus number 46 to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

The famous Raymond Blanc hotel and restaurant in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside may not sound like classic bus country. A seven-course meal at the Michelin-starred restaurant, with matching wines, starts at £350 per person, and goes up to just over £1,000 if you want to drink the good stuff.

However, the last bus back into town at 1am can save just over £1,000 on an overnight stay – or at least avoid squabbling over who the designated driver is after eating Cornish lobster and lamb in the new season with another washed up cup. . Prime Minister Crowe.

While the hotel notes that some customers do board the plane, especially if they arrive by train first, the bus service is mainly for staff use. The hospitality industry, like many others since Brexit and Covid, has struggled to fill vacancies and the service allows rural businesses to tap into a pool of workers from the city.

Route 46 launched earlier this summer and is almost equally funded by a celebrity chef and county and wages board. Fare is £3.50 one way, with rebates bringing the cost down to £2 for staff who commute regularly, and the seven-day hourly bus can be followed online as it travels from Oxford through nearby villages to Le Manoir in Great Melton approximately 10 miles away.

Raymond Blanc outside Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons restaurant in Great Milton. Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

The partnership has not only renamed and extended a rickety road to the luxury hotel, but has also enabled Go-Ahead-owned Oxford Bus to invest in two new low-emission buses for the route.

A decade of cuts has reduced the area’s irregular access to the city for daily service. Thanks to the Plan grant and the municipality’s contribution, buses now run hourly. The route, which includes the less prosperous Oxford area of ​​Cowley and the villages of Horspeth and Wheatley, which have lost its buses over the past decade, partly replaces the former Stagecoach Road that was considered unprofitable.

The financing deal must guarantee services for at least three years – and allow other rural residents to access jobs at Oxford and otherwise bring people to work at the hotel. Passenger numbers so far have reportedly been strong, exceeding the bus company’s expectations.

Aside from the business idea of ​​hiring staff and the welcome addition of community contacts, Blanc’s contribution was prompted by another pressing need. Le Manoir intends to significantly expand its premises and needs to reassure its village neighbors that these plans will not lead to more traffic.

A spa was planned, as well as a training academy. Sustainable transition helps meet Section 106 in Application Planning – What actions a developer should take to reduce its impact on society.

The hotel has supported the Oxford Bus Route to help staff get to the village. Photo: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Every little bit helps in the desperate years of the buses. More than a quarter of England’s bus services have disappeared in the past decade, according to the Better Transport campaign, and the rate of attrition has accelerated during the pandemic. From 2011 to 2019, total bus miles traveled by 10%, and then by 18% in the next two years.

The decline was originally due to the collapse of local government funding from cash-strapped local councils, which subsidized services deemed socially essential. Oxfordshire County Council was a prime example: in 2011 it spent just over £4 million to support buses; In 2019 the budget was zero.

“Local buses have seen funding cuts for more than a decade, leaving many places, especially rural areas, without usable service,” said Paul Twohy, Executive Director of Campaign for Better Transport.

Commercial services have been more vulnerable since then. After the pandemic began, emergency government funding kept many routes alive, but operators pulled other tracks. More may disappear when the government’s redevelopment grants expire after funding has been extended through September.

The pandemic came at a harsh time for a sector that finally convinced the government to announce an appropriate national strategy and investment of £3 billion by recognized bus lover Boris Johnson. Unfortunately, the vast majority were then earmarked as emergency funding as revenue disappeared, and regions were then forced to bid against each other’s improvement plans to win the remainder.

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Oxfordshire was one of the relatively fortunate regions with £12.7m allocated. However, it has long found fanciful partnerships with Go-Ahead and trading companies: The Oxford branch also introduced an on-demand bus service, PickMeUp, which eventually ran out of money. Oxford Buses said Flight 46 to Le Manoir “shows what can be achieved when key stakeholders work together”.

Elsewhere, the picture is even darker – embodied in the story of retiree, Alan Williams, who earlier this year made a £3,000 bid to fund an X53 road to his home in Bridport, which was to be painted by FirstGroup. However, the 78-year-old managed to save Sunday prayers after his generosity attracted widespread attention.

Defender Twohy added: “Raymond Blanc clearly sees the commercial benefits of good bus service, but it shouldn’t take individuals to fund what should be a public service. Government needs to do more to support local buses so that all communities and businesses can benefit, regardless No matter where they are.”

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