RESIDENTS and community leaders in Weymouth are celebrating after their bus service looks set to be saved.

A move by bus company First follows a campaign to protect the ‘lifeline’ service relied on by villagers.

However securing the service is dependent on work being carried out by local authorities.

County council chiefs say they will work with First on a solution but are ‘disappointed’ it has only now flagged up problems.

A solution has yet to be found for Southill, another community faced with losing its bus service as part of First’s timetable changes from March 24.

Investigations are continuing to maintain a bus link to the estate.

Borough councillor for Preston Ian Bruce said the decision to give Sutton Poyntz back its bus service was ‘very, very god news’.

Resident Barbra Harrison, 76, added: “I’m absolutely thrilled.

“I understand it will run for four months and we can only hope it will be made permanent after that.

“I think it’s quite a coup that we’ve got it.”

The announcement comes a week after people packed into the Pavilion for a meeting on bus routes, and almost a fortnight after a meeting in Sutton Poyntz.

First says it will reinstate service 4B – providing work is carried out in the village to address traffic concerns and help buses run on time.

The main reason for pulling out was that narrow roads, parking concerns and a tight reversing manoeuvre make it hard for buses to operate.

Passenger watchdog Travel-Watch South West understands First was giving the 4B a four-month extension for now, operating an hourly service.

Director Gordon Edwards said: “This reprieve for service 4B is excellent news for bus users and for the thousands of visitors who will be staying at the Seaview Holiday Park and Northmoor Farm camping site this summer.

“This reprieve clearly demonstrates that a well organised campaign with very strong local support deploying logical and rational arguments can force a ‘U-turn’ from a large multi-national company.

“The onus is now on Dorset County Council to implement the necessary traffic management measures in Sutton Poyntz to ensure that the bus service can continue to operate beyond this extension.”

Coun Bruce said: “We are thankful for the hard work from MP Richard Drax, and to the community for turning out at meetings and showing support.

“Now we have to see if the county council can iron out these traffic issues.”

He added: “It’s important people continue to use the bus.”

Mr Drax said: “I am extremely grateful the public campaign has paid off.”

He added: “I very much hope that the county council can work with First and other bus providers to help Southill and I understand there are already discussions about diverting existing subsidised services.”

County hoping for solution

DORSET County Council director for environment Miles Butler said: “First has stated it will continue to serve Sutton Poyntz if traffic management measures are put in place within four months.

“It is disappointing First did not approach us about this before announcing it intended to withdraw from Sutton Poyntz and have only now, at this late date, made these requests.

“The bulk of the proposals are for yellow lines and parking restrictions. The responsibility for this lies with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, which First would need to liaise with to agree any change in restrictions.

“Any change in traffic management or parking has to go through a statutory consultation procedure. It takes time to ensure that the proposals are acceptable.

“We are disappointed that First has introduced these conditions for reinstating the bus service without adequate discussion with both councils.

“We all want to see bus services retained and will work positively with First and local residents to advance a solution.”

First ‘willing’ to restore 4b

A SPOKESMAN for First said: “We have written to Dorset County Council and Richard Drax to outline our willingness to work with the local authority to restore Service 4B to Sutton Poyntz should the necessary traffic management work be undertaken.

“This will in turn facilitate the necessary movement of our vehicles around the village, ensuring they are not delayed as they have been previously.

“Restoring the service will require the support of the local authority and the short notice approval of the traffic commissioner.

“We are willing to apply for this if the council can confirm by Monday lunchtime they are willing to address the issues we have raised with them.”