December 19, 2016
Last-minute reprieve for threatened local bus service is welcomed

An axe-threatened bus service through the Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge area is set to be partially saved following 11th hour talks by Somerset County Council and local parish councils.

Service 67, which runs through Burnham-On-Sea, Highbridge, East Huntspill, Mark and Wedmore to Wookey Hole and was previously operated by the now-defunct WebberBus, was set to be withdrawn at the end of December to cut costs, as we first reported here.

An emergency contract to keep the service running was put in place by Somerset County Council with Bakers Dolpin earlier in the year following the demise of WebberBus. But that contract expired at the end of November and was then extended for what the council said was a "final time" to December 31st.

However, Tom Main, Public Transport Manager from Transporting Somerset at the County Council, has held discussions with local parish councils about keeping the service running. He has this week written to the parish councils advising them that a last-minute change is being agreed following a session in Wells last week.

He says: "One of the main points from the meeting in Wells was that the Parishes need more time for further discussions on both the level of service required and how to fund such a service."

"Linked to this was a request for Somerset County Council to fund a temporary service as it would not be possible for the Parishes to reach an agreement before the current service is withdrawn on 31st December."

"I can confirm that the Council is willing to fund a limited replacement service to be operated by Mendip Community Transport, initially for January 2017 but with an SCC option to extend this funding for another two months to take us to the end of March 2017, providing a long term funding arrangement can be agreed by the Parishes by the end of January."

"It was suggested by multiple Parishes that another meeting be held in Wedmore to discuss the desired replacement service level." The council says it hopes to arrange this during January.

The provisional timetable for the replacement service, which will start from 3rd January 2017 is available here, however it will no longer run through Burnham-On-Sea, as it currently does, but instead will start and finish from Highbridge Railway Station.

One local bus user, who asked not to be named, told "I'm relieved that the service is being maintained from Highbridge Railway Station but very disappointed that Burnham has been excluded. Burnham has come out of this poorly."


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