Fears over withdrawal of Somerset and Dorset bus routes
The demise of bus routes across the Yeovil area is being predicted after one operator announced it would close half of its routes before Christmas.
South West Coaches is axing 13 of its regular local services within the next six weeks.
Among those to be scrapped is the number 74 Yeovil to Sherborne Monday to Friday route.
The number 3 and 36 Gillingham to Yeovil Friday journeys will also cease.
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The move comes after Somerset County Council – along with Dorset and Wiltshire County Councils – reduced the amount it pays to the bus companies per free bus pass holder they take.
A fuel duty tax relief given to local bus route operators has also been slashed.
There are now fears that other bus companies, notably First Group, could withdraw routes in south Somerset in the coming months. The firm has already withdrawn from North Devon and it is understood the company is reviewing its rural services.
This week the company declined to comment.
Yeovil transport campaigner Tony Rees said: “The bus service in this area was never brilliant but it is getting a lot worse.
“There is a national push to get more people out of cars and on to public transport but the amount of money to support bus routes is going down.
“You can understand it when routes are closing because they are no longer viable.
“There have been all sorts of suggestions that other bus groups could be closing services in the coming months which is very worrying.
“There are feelings nationally that the whole way public transport is funded needs to be looked at, and that includes reviewing the free bus pass as bus routes are closing which many pensioners would be willing to pay for.”
Lewis Trahar, service manager at South West Coaches, said: “The vast majority of passengers on these routes are those with a bus pass so, with these cuts, we have seen our revenue decline and costs rise.
“This has been a regrettable and difficult decision to make. We realise the difficulty it will cause many of our passengers and it is not a decision we wanted to take. However, this decision was essential for the business and to many of the services we continue to run.
“We approached the county councils about this but financial support wasn’t available.
“I would urge passengers who would like to see our services maintained to contact their county councils.”
A Somerset County Council spokesman said the authority would not comment as it was a commercial decision made by South West Coaches.