A LIFELINE has been handed to rural communities after a £500,000 cut to Dorset's transport budget.

Residents who feared they would become isolated in their own homes when the county council cut funding for 26 rural bus routes have been thrown the lifeline by community bus service.

And Dorset Community Transport (DCT) says it has now clocked up more than 4,000 passenger trips since funding cuts in April.

Dorset County Council was forced to reduce public transport spending by £500,000, following funding cuts from central government.

But Blandford-based DCT stepped in to make sure 12 of the routes could keep going, so that residents in some of Dorset’s most isolated rural communities could get out and about.

Since April, when the cuts were announced, DCT’s PlusBus service – affectionately known by some passengers as the ‘little green bus’ – has provided more than 4,000 passenger journeys, from doctor’s visits to simple but vital trips to the shops.

There are now more than 400 people registered with the service, and demand has been such that DCT has had to introduce additional services, now serving Blandford, Wimborne, Sherborne, Bridport and Dorchester, as well as Salisbury and Yeovil in neighbouring counties.

Mary Head, 73, from East Lulworth, said: “I really rely on the little green bus.

"Where I live is very isolated, and when I found out that the council was cutting my usual route I was mortified. It actually made me feel really depressed.”

She continued: “We have one lady on the bus who is 92 and I think it’s the only time she gets out. For someone living alone, who is perhaps not able to walk very well and has not got family around, you need to be able to get out and have something to look forward to.”

Chris Kirk, from West Lulworth, said: “I was really worried when I first found out about the cuts. I would have had to change my dentist and doctor. I’m very glad for the service that DCT provides – it’s fast and efficient.”

DCT’s General Manager Tim Christian, said: “When we heard about the cuts, we were determined to help offer an affordable solution for many of the residents who had contacted us with their concerns.

“We are a charity with a mission to provide accessible transport for people who are unable to get out and about. We are so pleased that we have been able to continue making a difference for people living in some of Dorset’s most isolated rural communities.”