SOMERSET West and Taunton Council is pumping a further £135,000 into the county town's park and ride service.

The second rescue package to keep buses running at the Gateway and Silk Mills sites takes the total district council contribution to the schemes to more than £300,000 in a matter of months.

The latest handout includes £115,000 to ensure the county council-run service can continue until next March, with an additional £20,000 to look into ways of securing its long-term sustainability.

The cash is coming from New Homes Bonus reserves and Garden Town grant funding.

Cllr Mike Rigby, executive member for planning and transport at Deane House, said: "The two park and ride sites provide an efficient, cost-effective way of getting into the town centre, and help to reduce congestion and pollution which aligns with our climate goals.

"They are integral to our Taunton Garden Town vision which supports expansion of the public transport network in line with our sustainable growth aspirations and forms a key part of our wider investment strategy for the economic development of the area.

"It makes good economic sense to explore how we can place this service on a sound commercial footing for the future."

The former Taunton Deane Borough Council stepped in with a contribution of £170,000 to ensure the park and ride service stayed up and running until September 2019 after Somerset County Council last year announced plans to suspend the service in 2018.

Since then SWT has been supporting County Hall and the operator Buses of Somerset with their plans to deliver a financially sustainable model for the service.

The extended funding arrangement aims to allow SWT time to explore options with partners for securing the long term future of the service and to grow them commercially.

It plans to liaise with the retail and business community about incentives to encourage greater use of the Gateway and Silk Mills sites.

Other measures currently being proposed include further advertising, signage on the M5 and on-street branding.

Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the contract and service to March 2020 will continue to remain with the county council and the contracted bus operator.

SCC leader Cllr David Fothergill said: "We very much welcome the district council’s extension of funding for the park and ride and have reached agreement with the operator to continue providing the weekday service.

"The county council will, of course, continue to support efforts to make this a financially self-sustaining service that plays a part in Taunton’s long-term aspirations."

Alex Carter, managing director of Buses of Somerset, said: "This is another important milestone along the route to a financially sustainable park and ride service for Taunton.

"SWT’s ongoing commitment is welcomed, and will help to support the service while further measures can be developed to grow usage of the park and ride."