South Petherton Hospital may be cut out of bus route
A bus operator has warned that South Petherton Hospital may be dropped from a major bus service route.
South West Coaches is looking at reducing the 81 service from Yeovil to South Petherton amid further subsidy cuts expected from Somerset County Council in April.
Managing director Alan Graham said if the cuts go ahead the route will no longer be able to stretch to the hospital.
He added that smaller villages, such as Norton-sub-Hamdon, would have to be cut from the route completely.
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Regularity is also likely to reduce to once every two hours on Saturdays and during the middle of the day.
Mr Graham told South Petherton parish councillors: “We are still in negotiations with the county council and trying to overturn this cut. But I just cannot carry on paying for the subsidy cuts the county council is putting upon us.
“As I understand it, more and more hospital services are switching from Yeovil to South Petherton.
“First and foremost I am a businessman, but when there are villages who don’t have a bus service I think that is morally wrong.
“Somebody needs to stand up and fight for rural bus service provision in Somerset.”
Mr Graham revealed that South West Coaches had lost £250,000 in the last year.
South Petherton Parish Council has agreed to form a group to fight the cut and hopes to get Yeovil MP David Laws on board.
District councillor Paul Thompson said: “We have already lost one bus service in South Petherton and now it looks like we’re going to lose another service that is essential. We are entitled to a bus service.”
The news also comes as a blow to Crewkerne and Chard residents who need to use the hospital. The towns were assured they could use the 81 service after their direct link to the hospital was lost when the 90 and 91 services were axed.
Parish councillor Adam Dance also raised concerns that the cut would affect students who travel from South Petherton to Yeovil College. He said: “We have got to fight this. The county council has spent millions on their new office makeover while our bus services are being cut.”
A county council spokesman said: “We currently provide a subsidy of £35,080 per year for the number 81 bus service.
“Following significantly reduced funding from central government last year we had to make extremely tough choices and proposed to withdraw our funding from this service.
“South West Coaches advised us that if we could find a way to provide financial support for one more year, they felt this would allow time to make the service financially viable.
“As a result, we agreed to fund the service for one year only. We are in continuing discussions with the operator.”
A spokesman for Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust has not been informed of any imminent change to the bus route provided to South Petherton Community Hospital and the bus service continues to operate as normally.
“If the bus operator, South West Coaches, has concerns about the future viability of the service the trust would expect to be formally notified of any concerns.”