Crewkerne passengers aim to save bus service from cuts
A campaign has been launched to save a weekly bus service which brings joy to elderly Crewkerne residents.
The 202 Wednesday service, which runs from Chard to Dorchester through Crewkerne, is set to be withdrawn by South West Coaches by the end of November.
The bus operator previously rescued the route after it was dropped by First Avon and Somerset in November 2009.
But now it says declining revenue is a major factor which has made several services across South Somerset – including as the 202 – untenable.
Sylvia Trollope, 89, of Kithill said: “I was very upset when I got on the bus last week and saw the sign which said the service was going.
“Some of the other elderly passengers were nearly in tears.
“A lot of us are willing to pay £1 or £2 on top of our bus pass to try and help. It would be such a shame were it to go.
“Getting to Dorchester on a Wednesday is something many people look forward to, not just for the market but visiting family as well.
“I use it to visit my sister and brother, as well as seeing my great-grandchildren. If they stop the service I can’t get to them.”
County councillor for Crewkerne John Dyke received a petition opposing withdrawal of the service yesterday morning. He said he would join residents in raising concerns with local MP David Laws.
He said: “For many residents this service is the high spot of the week.”
Lewis Trahar, service manager at South West Coaches, said the firm’s decision to cut services was due to a reduction in the contribution it receives from councils for carrying pensioners travelling with a free bus pass.
It is also having to pay more fuel duty after changes to a Government relief scheme.
“The majority of passengers on these routes are those with a bus pass so with these cuts we have seen our revenue decline and our costs rise,” Mr Trehar said.
“Cutting bus routes is the worst thing we have to do and last thing we want to do. It is not nice taking away routes which people rely on.
“We realise the difficulty it will cause many of our passengers and is not a decision we wanted to take.
“However, it was essential for the business and for many of the other services we continue to run.
“We approached the county councils about this, but financial support was not available.
“They may well decide some of these services they want to keep running and may look to support some of them in the future. We now have to sit and wait to see if there will be any further changes from councils in April.
“I would urge passengers who would like to see our services maintained to contact their county councils directly or through a district or parish councillor.”
Somerset County Council declined to comment.