‘Continuing losses’ on a bus service linking two west Dorset towns has forced operators First Wessex to cease running it.

Service 6, which operates between Bridport, Beaminster and Crewkerne, was taken over by First in September 2017 after bus operator Damory withdrew its Number 40 service between Bridport and Yeovil.

But the First has announced it can no longer run the service due and it will cease on May 1.

First Wessex managing director, Marc Reddy, said: “After looking at the long-term financial viability of Service 6, which operates between Bridport, Beaminster and Crewkerne, we have regretfully concluded that we cannot continue to run the service in the light of continuing losses on the service.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, but as the service is operated without any form of local government subsidy, the revenue taken on the route simply fails to match the costs of the operation.

“First Wessex has informed stakeholders of our intention to deregister the Service 6 from May 1. We hope that by providing almost five months’ notice, local authorities have ample opportunity to decide whether to tender for a replacement service. The last day of operation will be Friday, May 1.”

Bob Driscoll, chairman of the Western Area Transport Action Group (WATAG) said that although the announcement was ‘unexpected’ it was not a ‘total surprise’ to those who have used the service in the last couple of years.

He said: “The timetable is not customer friendly and the withdrawal of the commuter and Yeovil College service from October 2018 and direct service between Bridport and Yeovil in April 2019 has impacted severely on passenger carryings, with, presumably, consequential reduction in revenue.

“The reason for this current debacle can be traced back to the re-tendering of the schools transport contract in 2017. At that time, Damory had been operating the Bridport to Yeovil corridor for a number of years and with a stable, customer friendly timetable, built up a regular and loyal clientele. Although this received a subsidy from Dorset County Council (DCC), Damory had indicated that it was prepared to continue the service without subsidy, since their passenger numbers were increasing.

“However, when DCC awarded the schools transport contract to First Wessex, Damory gave notice of de-registration of its 40 service from the end of July 2017.

“Since September 2017, the route has suffered several timetable changes with no consultation with its stakeholders.

“We have made several suggestions to Dorset Council regarding the timetable, which might improve its attractiveness to users, but so far to no avail.

“We hope that Dorset Council will now seize this opportunity to engage with all stakeholders on the route and secure a sensible, long-term solution for the future.”

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said the council would work with interested parties to find the ‘best possible outcome’.

“We’re aware of First Wessex’s planned withdrawal of this bus service,” he said.

“While we do not subsidise this route, we’re concerned about the impact this commercial decision will have on the wider public transport network in the area. We intend to work with all interested parties to help find the best possible outcome for affected local residents within our existing budget.”