Wincanton bus service to continue running over Christmas
Bus passengers in Wincanton have received an early Christmas gift after a popular service was given a three-week reprieve.
South West Coaches announced in October that 13 of its services were to be axed by Friday, November 30.
Among those to be scrapped was the popular 28 from Templecombe to Salisbury, which passes through Wincanton and a number of small villages.
However, after aggrieved passengers voiced their discontent at a public meeting in Wincanton last month, Wiltshire Council has agreed to offer an eleventh-hour lease of life.
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The council has agreed to fund the service, which runs on Tuesday and Saturday, until after Christmas.
Regular passenger Brian Chambers, of Horsington, said: “It is an early Christmas gift for us all.
“It is great news but now we are anxious to see what happens in the New Year.
“I think the overwhelming emotion was that of relief – everyone is pleased, but until something is decided we are still in the dark.
“There weren’t many people on the bus to Salisbury on Tuesday which was disappointing, but I don’t think the word has properly spread around.
“It’s a welcome reprieve, and now we keep our fingers crossed and see if someone can come up with the money for the long-term.”
Wincanton town councillor Dora Hibberd said: “We have faced a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of months, and hopefully something will be done beyond these three weeks.
“There is still plenty of hope, and it’s great news that elderly and disabled people will be able to visit Salisbury in the run-up to Christmas.”
Lewis Trahar, service manager at South West Coaches, said some services will continue as monthly excursions after Christmas.
He said: “We are pleased to confirm that Service 28 will continue to run as a bus services until Christmas following support from Wiltshire County Council.
“After this time, the service will be tendered as a bus service by Wiltshire Council to all operators.
“We are also pleased to confirm that following over 400 responses to our survey, we will be operating some replacement journeys as excursions on a monthly frequency.
“A further statement will be made to confirm which routes will be operated in this manner.
“We would like to thank all our passengers and the public for their continued support.”
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said it hoped this will continue beyond this month, depending on “the analysis of tenders which is currently taking place”.
The initial decision made by South West Coaches to axe the services was made because of increasing costs and a cut in fare subsidies by Somerset County Council.
Mr Trahar said the company held a review, starting in April, to see how efficiently the network operated.
He said: “Before making a final decision, we asked the local authorities that can provide funding whether they would be prepared to do so, but no funding was forthcoming.”
However, a Somerset County Council spokesman said the decision was a commercial one made by South West Coaches.