I refer to the letter from Reg Strathearn (Letters, November 21) regarding free bus travel for veterans, current armed forces personnel and cadets on Remembrance Sunday.

It is accepted that our offer of free travel on our buses on a Sunday can only be taken advantage of by those who can access and wish to use the bus service on a Sunday.

As mentioned to Reg Strathearn in our correspondence, where there is gap in any bus market, for instance because no bus operator thinks there would be enough passengers travelling during a Sunday to offer a service commercially (i.e. funded by bus fares) and the local authority feel that a bus service is socially necessary, then the local authority can, if they wish, provide financial support for the bus service so it can be operated by any bus operator that is successful in winning the tender for such a ‘supported service’.

Unfortunately, local authorities up and down the country have faced budget pressures for many years that impacted their ability to support socially necessary bus services.

Service 8, on a Sunday in the winter used to be financially support by Dorset County Council, until circa 2012. For the past 6 years we operated Sunday services without any financial support at all, but ultimately, there were not enough fare-paying customers using the service to cover the costs. Therefore, reluctantly, we had to withdraw the Sunday service in the winter.

As Mr Strathearn is aware, this was the case last year too.

I have the highest respect for the entire armed forces community and especially for veterans regardless of where they live and I am sorry Reg Strathearn was unable to take advantage of our offer, however, he may be pleased to hear there were very many others who did take up our offer of free travel from various parts of Dorset and indeed across our wider network.

Marc Reddy

Managing Director First Hampshire,

Dorset and Berkshire