The risk of losing a rural bus service is leading to a meeting with Southern Vectis owners and the Isle of Wight Council.
It follows a decision by Southern Vectis to keep to a winter timetable for the Route 6 bus for the rest of the year, instead of reinstating the summer timetable.
The Route 6 services the villages of Chale, Chillerton, Gatcombe, Niton and Whitwelll.
Isle of Wight Council Leader Dave Stewart, who represents Chale and Niton, had secured an extra bus for Sundays, but said it wasn’t enough.
The parish councils of Chale, Chillerton & Gatcombe, and Niton & Whitwell had contributed to heklp fund the winter timetable of the number 6 route
Richard Tyldsley, Southern Vectis general manager said:
“Our intention is to continue operating our Winter service throughout the whole year, as we have experienced virtually no change in customer numbers. The timetable has also been working well as far as reliability is concerned since our changes.
“We are proud of the work our team carries out, providing a comprehensive network of services across the island. And we are committed to continuing with the route 6 service. In order to do this, we continuously monitor the volume of passenger journeys on this route. Currently, customer numbers don’t allow us to provide an hourly bus because the same number of people are travelling on our two hourly timetable.
“When Isle of Wight Council took the decision to withdraw all funding for route 6 in late 2015, we reviewed the entire operation and retained all journeys that covered our direct operating costs. The current timetable is run entirely on a commercial basis – the first time in decades that a bus service for the rural communities we serve has been operated without local authority funding.
“I welcome the concessions, which shows Southern Vectis is now prepared to listen, but it falls way short of the service that was in place and local people are rightly concerned, especially as parish councils subsidise the route in the winter months.
“The Isle of Wight Council has a contract with Southern Vectis which runs into millions of pounds, but it seems there is little flexibility from it when it comes to matters of maintaining a service, such as the number 6 route, if it is not commercially viable.
“I will be making this point very clearly to Andrew Wickham, the Managing Director of the Southern Vectis’s parent company Go South Coast, on the 30th March meeting when I will raise the issue of rural services and wider contractual matters on the island with him. In the meantime, I again urge Southern Vectis to think again about axing this route.”
“It was as though the new management at SV were unaware of the financial support we’ve been giving the service, and we only learned of their plans through third parties.
“We have a high proportion of pass-holders on this route – disabled as well as elderly – who are suffering quite severe hardship and expense as a result of the present skeleton service.”