A TRANSPORT boss says he discovered that his firm had been axed from running Taunton’s park-and-ride scheme through the media.

WebberBus Ltd was sacked by Somerset County Council after passengers’ complaints about buses turning up late or not at all.

A council spokesman said the decision was taken after officers had monitored the service out of Silk Mills, at Bishop’s Hull, and Gateway, at Henlade, for months.

WebberBus boss Tim Gardner said he found out his firm had been dropped through a call from the media, and even his own drivers knew before him.

He said: “We recognise that during the last quarter of 2013 we had operating difficulties for a variety of reasons.

“We were asked by the council to put forward a recovery plan on how we’d put things right, and from January onwards we were operating at a position greater than we’d indicated.”

Mr Gardner said WebberBus, which ran the contract from November, 2010, and has worked for the county since 1947, was hampered by “horrendous” traffic congestion in Taunton, made worse by roadworks.

But the company still hit around 97% of its recovery plan targets – above the accepted norm of 95%.

He said: “Whatever we’d have done wouldn’t have made any difference because the decision was made to carry out this action months ago.”

Mr Gardner said none of the 17 park-and-ride drivers, who carried 6,500 passengers on a peak day, would be laid off.

Buses of Somerset – part of First group – has been operating the park-and-ride on an interim basis since Tuesday until a new contract can be arranged.

Cllr Harvey Siggs, county council cabinet member for transport, said: “Taunton’s park-and-ride service is vitally important to the town and we were disappointed to hear reports of poor service.

“We want the best for our customers and have taken this firm action to make sure that they receive a more reliable service in future.”

He said WebberBus Ltd remains a key partner of Somerset County Council, and will continue to operate many other commercial and contracted bus services across the county.