A PROTEST rally against bus service cuts is to be held in Wiveliscombe on Saturday (February 17), which is on one of the routes under threat.

First Bus South is proposing to reduce the No 25 bus to a three-hourly service after a Somerset Council subsidy runs out in April.

The company said the service would not be viable without the subsidy, but the council said it did not have the funds to carry on subsidising buses as it tried to bridge a £100 million budget gap and avoid effectively becoming bankrupt.

It also plans to reduce the No 28 Minehead to Taunton bus to every 45 minutes instead of half-hourly and to axe two routes serving South Somerset for the same reason.

The No 25 bus runs from Dulverton via Bampton, Waterrow, Wiveliscombe, Milverton, and Cotford St Luke to Taunton.

Somerset Bus Partnership has been leading protests against the proposed cuts and held a rally last weekend in Yeovil which was attended by more than 100 people.

Now, the partnership is organising a rally in The Square, Wiveliscombe, which will start at 11 am on Saturday, with some of the protesters arriving in the town at 10.43 am on the 9.55 am bus from Taunton.

Partnership spokesman David Northey said: “We started a programme of engagement with local communities affected by these proposals to raise the impact with First Bus and the council that these services are vital and provide access to education, work, and improve social mobility and reduce isolation.

“We held a rally in Yeovil last Saturday which was well received by local bus users and supporters.

“Therefore, we are holding a similar event in the west of the county to support communities affected by the proposed reduction in services on route 25.”

Some of the protesters will then catch the 1.12 pm bus from Wiveliscombe to Dulverton for a short demonstration in the Exmoor town.

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who represents West Somerset and will be the Conservative General Election candidate for the new Tiverton and Minehead constituency, said he was confident a solution would be found to keep the No 25 and 28 services running, albeit on a reduced timetable.

Mr Liddell-Grainger was meeting bus company managing director Simon Goff on Friday to discuss his concerns about the routes.

Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord, who currently represents part of the No 25 route, and the party’s candidate for the new constituency, Rachel Gilmour, have called on parish councils to promote the service to boost passenger numbers.

They have also asked the Department for Transport to clarify future funding for rural buses, specifically those which operate across county boundaries, such as the No 25.

Mr Foord said: “The number 25 is a critical bus service which connects Somerset and Devon.

“Many people rely on it to get to work, school, and to travel to appointments or do their weekly shop.

“The Government must take steps to ensure that important rural bus routes like this one are protected.”