CAMPAIGNERS fighting to get their bus service reinstated are hopeful of a solution after meeting transport managers.

A decision by the First bus firm to reroute its popular service 31 Weymouth to Bridport bus away from communities near Dorchester has incensed villagers who rely on public transport.

The bus now goes through Martinstown and the Winterbourne Valley twice a day instead of hourly and runs between Bridport and Dorchester only, instead of going on to Weymouth. First said it was to improve the reliability of the service.

A demonstration was held in Martinstown earlier this year which saw more than 200 people support a protest against the changes.

Residents have to walk two miles to the nearest bus stop on the A35, or travel by car or taxi now the service is cut. Villagers hope First will listen to their concerns and run more buses through the area again.

Members representing the Winterbourne Valley 31 Bus Committee secured a meeting with representatives of First including Marc Reddy, Managing Director of First Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire, and Simon Newport, General Manager, Wessex.

Committee chairman Keith Howat said: “First Group has now promised to look at various options and try to come up with some possible solutions.

“It is the continued aim of the committee to see a full reinstatement of service 31 and we look forward to a continuing dialogue with First Group.”

Service 31 is a commercial service rather than a subsidised route but First said it hopes to secure funding in order to run more buses via Martinstown.

Dorset County Council, which made cuts to its bus subsidy budget last year, says it is up to First if it wants to make changes.

A First bus spokesman said: “We will continue to try and work with residents of Martinstown to find a solution that is achievable and meets the community needs.

“We have discussed a number of options for bus services along this corridor including the opportunity of additional journeys.

“In order to proceed with these however we need to work with local authority partners to help fund these journeys. We hope that through working together with the local authority we can reach a satisfactory solution.”

A DCC spokesman said: “The X31 is a commercial bus service run by First and is not subsidised by Dorset County Council.

“Our passenger transport team regularly meets with First and have made some suggestions on how they could improve services to Winterborne Steepleton and Martinstown. However, it is down to First to decide if they wish to make any changes.”