PUBLIC house owner Jon Coward has joined a campaign in Wiveliscombe to keep the No 25 bus route running between Taunton and Dulverton.

The bus runs from Taunton to Dulverton five times a day, and is a lifeline for many people along the route, including in Hillcommon, Cotford St Luke, Milverton, Wiveliscombe, and Waterrow.

It is currently being subsidised with Government money until the end of March, but Somerset Council has said the support cannot be continued and the service would then be at risk because too few passengers were using it.

Mr Coward, who owns the Bear Inn, Wiveliscombe, and the recently re-opened Royal Oak, in Hillcommon, said he was worried about possible cuts to the service after March.

So, he has offered to pay the bus fares of customers who visit one of his pubs on the route and spend at least £20.

Mr Coward said: “As part of the heart of two small communities along the bus route, I know how important it is for many people to have access to a regular and reliable service.

“Without the service, many people would be stranded in a ‘transport desert.’”

Somerset Cllr Dave Mansell, who represents Wiveliscombe, said: “I am a member of the Wivey Bus User Group.

“We have been encouraging people to ‘take a trip on the 25’ to help avoid service cuts.

“In taking up this call, the promotion by The Bear is great.

“Already, people in Wivey and parishes around the town have been using the bus more to help save the 25.

“The more who do so, the better.”

James Eustace, of First Bus South, which operates the No 25 service, said the company was currently reviewing its entire network in Somerset, which it did twice a year as part of a partnership agreement with Somerset Council.

Mr Eustace said: “Through this period we are working closely with Somerset Council, local councillors, and bus user groups on our plans for bus services.

“No decisions on the four routes currently being subsidised by the council have yet been made.

“In terms of the publican, it sounds like a great initiative and we are all for anything that encourages more people to use the bus.”

The Council for the Protection of Rural England said providing an alternative to private car travel with local bus services could reduce traffic and air pollution, and boost high street spending, employment, social mobility, and equality.