Bus passengers on four routes in Somerset can travel on a bus for free on 19 December.

Somerset Council and the Somerset Bus Partnership are holding a free bus travel day on First Bus South, 25, 28, 54 and 58/58A services. They say that this initiative aims to highlight these services which are currently at risk of being dropped or reduced at the end of March 2024.

Somerset Council is currently subsidising these routes using ring-fenced Government Bus Service Improvement Plan Plus (BSIP Plus) funding. First Bus South cannot continue to operate the routes without a subsidy because not enough passengers are using them. 

Passengers will not a ticket, voucher, just simply jump on and ride for free. 

The routes are as follows: 

·      54: Yeovil-Taunton, including stops at Langport, Somerton and Ilchester 

·      58/58A: Yeovil-Wincanton, including Sherborne, Milborne Port, Henstridge 

·      25: Taunton-Dulverton, including Cotford St. Luke, Norton Fitzwarren and Wiveliscombe 

·      28:Taunton-Minehead, including Bishop’s Lydeard, Williton, Watchet and Dunster 

You can find links to the full timetables on Somerset Council’s Bus It page.

The latest round of the ‘Bus It’ campaign - supported by the Somerset Bus Partnership and Buses of Somerset, aims to support these four at risk routes and try to boost passenger numbers. 

In the face of massive budget pressures, Somerset Council cannot commit to supporting the services from April. The authority recently declared a financial emergency driven by spiralling demands and costs of care.

However, First Bus South has said it will review the routes before the funding ends next year, taking into account new data on passenger uptake. 

Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital, Councillor Mike Rigby, said: “This is an excellent initiative. We’re grateful to First Bus South for doing this, and we hope it will persuade people to try out their local bus route and have a great day out, whilst leaving the car at home for a change. 

“It might not be free the rest of the year, but bus fares are just £2 for any single journey in Somerset until December 2024, that’s amazing value. We really want people to value and help protect these routes and the best way of doing that is to use them.

“The services are more reliable and if you choose to Bus It to work or the shops you will be saving hard-earned cash. It’s worth checking our Bus It page to find out more.”

First Bus South Director, James Eustace, said: “We’re proud to be supporting this fantastic initiative, helping people realise the many benefits of using the buses. By offering free travel, we want to encourage people to try the bus, perhaps to go to their Christmas shopping, go to a restaurant, or to explore the local area.”