A key bus service between Wells and Burnham-on-Sea will continue until at least March next year thanks to a second pioneering partnership.
The 67 service was due to end today (21 July) but after months of meetings and discussions between Somerset County Council and eight parishes, an agreement has been reached that will see the parishes meet much of the running costs.
This follows a similar agreement announced in February between the County Council and parishes in West Somerset to save routes between Porlock and Minehead and within Minehead. This was the first arrangement of its kind in the county.
The 67’s previous operator Webberbus went out of business in May last year. Since then it has been kept going with emergency Council funding which has allowed the work on a community-funded replacement to carry on.
Under the new agreement the service will continue with no change to the timetable. Crosville Motor Services will be running the Burnham-on-Sea to Wedmore section and Mendip Community Transport the Wedmore to Wells section.
Between now and March, the County Council and parishes will be looking at the long-term viability of the arrangements, which will depend to a large extent on how well used the service is.
Councillor John Woodman, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “All the parishes deserve considerable credit for how they have come together and worked with us to come up with a solution.
“Our budgets are under huge pressures and we were in no position to start subsidising the 67 after the collapse of Webberbus. But we found the money to keep it going in the short-term and the result is this agreement which secures the route until March.
“My message now is that the communities need to get behind the service. We all hope that it will be possible for this agreement – or something like it – to work in the longer term, but it only stacks up if the route is well-used”.
The eight parishes are paying varying contributions towards the cost of the service and Somerset County Council is contributing a further small amount to fund access to further education. The Council is also underwriting the revenue predictions for the remainder of this financial year.
Councillor David Huxtable, who has been overseeing the discussions with the parishes, said: “This is a fantastic example of collaboration and joint working between the county and parish councils which has allowed this vital service to continue.
“Shrinking budgets mean we have to be creative, work differently and see where we can work with our local communities. This just shows that can be achieved when we do”.
The parishes which are part of the agreement are: Wells, Wedmore, Wookey, St. Cuthbert, Mark, East Huntspill, Burnham Without and Burnham & Highbridge.