PASSENGERS using Taunton's park and ride service will be able to travel on double decker buses from next month.

Stagecoach South West has won the contract to run the service from the Silk Mills and Gateway park and ride sites on separate edge of town sites.

Somerset Council appointed the new operator following a successful tender bid after First Bus South announced it was pulling out.

Stagecoach will run buses in a new livery between 6am and 8pm from Mondays to Fridays, with "a slightly later start" on Saturdays, from Monday, February 12.

Buses will run every 20 minutes rather than the previously timetabled 15 minutes.

Somerset Council’s lead member for transport and digital, Cllr Richard Wilkins, said: “It’s great news to secure this new contract with Stagecoach South West.

“Taunton’s park and ride is a vital part of the town’s transport infrastructure and has shown a significant increase in patronage in the last two years.

“Thousands of commuters make use of the service every week, helping to cut the number of cars going into town during peak hours, and at just £1 for a single journey, it remains fantastic value.”

Peter Knight, managing director at Stagecoach South West, said: "We are proud to be delivering this park and ride partnership with Somerset Council and other key organisations in Taunton.

"We look forward to the service commencing on 12 February 2024 and meeting our new customers in Taunton, providing them with reliable, affordable and sustainable travel across the Taunton park and ride service".

First Bus South, which won a five-year contract to operate the service from July 2021, informed the council it wished to withdraw as it felt it was "no longer viable", despite rising passenger numbers.

The council has said it will work with Musgrove Park Hospital to improve the service to better suit the needs of staff working there.

Somerset Council announced before Christmas that it had landed a new operator but declined to publicly name the replacement contractor until today (Thursday, January 4) due to "commercial sensitivity".