WIVELISCOMBE’S under-threat bus service has been given a 12-month reprieve after an agreement was reached between First Bus South and Somerset Council.

The council has previously said it could not afford to continue subsidising the No 25 service after March, but has now agreed to use Government funding to support it for a further 12 months.

First Bus agreed to continue to promote the service during the year and work with the council and Somerset Bus Partnership on a campaign to encourage more people to use the bus.

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

Along with the No 28 Taunton to Minehead route and two buses serving South Somerset, it was at risk of being stopped or reduced due to low passenger numbers.

The bus partnership held a series of protest rallies against the cuts and on Tuesday (February 20) lobbied Somerset councillors when they met to agree a 2024-25 budget.

It also launched an online petition which in just one week was signed by more than 2,500 people.

Although full details of changes to the 25 service are yet to be announced, the company said it would continue to serve all points on its route, but to ensure it remained viable, the timetable will see some amendments.

Some daytime journeys will divert on the 28 route through Cotford St Luke and North Fitzwarren and will be renumbered as 28A.

Somerset executive Cllr Richard Wilkins said: “We know how important these services are for people and we have recently seen the strength of feeling around ensuring they are protected.

“Passenger numbers have been rising, which is positive, this trend still needs to continue to ensure the long-term future of the routes.

“The message to everybody is please do keep using and valuing these services, and we will continue to work with Buses of Somerset and Somerset Bus Partnership to promote bus travel.”

A 'Save the No 25' campaign has been launched by MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.
The No 25' Wiveliscombe bus has been saved for a further year.

First Bus South commercial director James Eustace said: “Reducing or withdrawing services is the last thing we want to do, so we are delighted to have found a solution with Somerset Council that allows the four routes to continue to run.

“While running these services remains commercially challenging, we understand how valued the services are.

“However, we need to be clear that for bus services to continue operating in the long-term they need to continually be commercially sustainable and cover their cost of operations.”

Local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger expressed ‘absolute delight’ at the reprieve, which he said followed councillors, parishes, and partnership protestors putting up ‘a pretty strong case for retention’.

Liddell-Grainger said: “I am immensely grateful for the huge efforts that Somerset Council leader Cllr Bill Revans in particular has devoted to this issue in a period when there are so many other calls on his time.

“Those services are a real lifeline for people needing to get into Taunton for college, or medical appointments or to catch trains, and the consequences of losing them would have been unimaginable.”