THE future of four Somerset bus services could be at risk as the operator said their routes could be reduced or withdrawn without the ongoing financial support.

The 25, 28, 54, and 58 services run by Buses of Somerset were supported by Somerset Council last July through a funding package that allowed the four routes to remain as they are today.

The company saw passenger growth but “unfortunately, not to the extent that would negate the ongoing need for financial support”.

Buses of Somerset, after the Bus Advisory Board with the council, said that without this ongoing support, those routes could be reduced or withdrawn.

No final decisions have been made yet on any of the routes.

A Buses of Somerset spokesperson said: “We’re currently reviewing our entire network in Somerset, which we do twice a year in line with our Enhanced Partnership agreement with Somerset Council.

“Throughout this period, we’re working closely with Somerset Council, local councillors, and bus user groups on our plans for bus services.

“At the Bus Advisory Board with Somerset Council [on Tuesday, February 6], we were asked to outline what our network could look like from April 2024 if the current funding we receive to support services 25, 28, 54, and 58 were to be withdrawn.

“It is important to note that no final decisions have been made yet on any of the four routes.

“Last July, Somerset Council agreed on a funding package that helped to bridge the gap between the operational costs and the revenue, and since then, this has allowed the four routes to remain as they are today.

“In that period, we’ve seen passenger growth but unfortunately, not to the extent that would negate the ongoing need for financial support.

“Somerset Council has been out to public consultation regarding their budget for 2024/25, and we have made it clear that ongoing funding is required to protect these bus routes.

“We understand the social value that these routes provide and the great job that our people do every day to keep people moving.

“Reducing or withdrawing routes is the last thing we want to do, but without ongoing support, this could be an outcome.

“The effect the pandemic has had on services, as well as rising costs due to inflationary pressures, has meant we have had to reassess all of our bus networks and can no longer operate bus services that are not at least covering the costs of operations.

“We remain committed to working with Somerset Council to find a solution and will meet again over the coming days. We understand how important these services are to people.

“A further update will be provided once we have clarity over the future of funding for these routes.”

Somerset’s lead member for Transport and Digital, Councillor Richard Wilkins, said: “This is incredibly disappointing, especially after the efforts the council and communities have made to encourage bus use on these routes.

“However, we look forward to further meetings with the operator as soon as possible to try and find a way forward.

“We simply do not have the extra Government funding to subsidise these routes beyond March. We do what we can with the money we’ve got.

“This year we will spend nearly £5.2 million on subsidising 76 routes across the county. Although there are no planned savings on bus subsidies for the next financial year, the council is under enormous financial pressure.”

What are the services at risk?

  • 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