A campaign has started to bring a bus service back to Winterbourne Steepleton and Martinstown.

The villages used to have a service until the bus operator decided, in 2014, that it was taking too long to divert from the main road through the villages between Weymouth, Dorchester and Bridport.

Campaigners are now trying to persuade First to take what is now the X51 service through the valley once again - for at least the summer period.

Read more: Protest at proposed bus service changes

They are hoping for a meeting with the company in the hope that a recent management reorganisation might result in the new bosses taking a different view to the service than First did almost 10 years ago.

At that time, the decision led to protests about the loss of the service - then the 31 - including a placard waving demonstration attended by about 200 people in Martinstown supporting the new campaign.

Campaigner, Les Scarth, who lives in Martinstown, is asking local businesses and other organisations to support the call for changes by writing to the bus company to back the summer diversions to see if the route is viable. He is asking people to explain how a better service would improve valley residents' access to Bridport, Weymouth, Dorchester and beyond; would help reduce traffic congestion, support shopping and socialising and improve access for medical appointments.

Mr Scarth says that in March 2014 residents of Martinstown discovered that First Bus intended cutting the hourly 31-service down to just one bus eastbound, into Dorchester, at 8am and just one bus westbound, back from Dorchester, at about 4pm, the changes being implemented in mid-May 2014.

The 31 service was then renumbered and became the X31 and was later renumbered again and became the X51.

Said Mr Scarth: “A group of residents got together and formed the Winterbourne Valley Transport Group (WVTG) and managed to get First Bus to put on two additional buses eastbound in the early-morning and two additional buses westbound in the late-afternoon.

“The problem was that the last bus into Dorchester left Martinstown at  around 9am and the earliest return bus didn't arrive back to Martinstown until around 4pm. The long stay away from home was not practical for most people which resulted in the bus service not being used very much. The WVTG tried to get First Bus to reroute one of their buses at around 1300-hrs or 1400-hrs so people could get into town and back without the need for a very long stay in Dorchester and, despite repeated attempts over the intervening 10 years, First Bus has consistently refused to do so citing a variety of reasons.

“Over the years the additional early-morning and late-afternoon buses were cut out and then, during the COVID lockdown, all buses were stopped and have never been reinstated. With the exception of a Dorset Community Transport minibus that provides a single run to and from Dorchester leaving at about 10am and returning at 1.15pm Steepleton, North Rew, South Rew, Martinstown and Mallards Green now have no public transport…

“The 31-service was well used before the 2014 cuts and many people want to use public transport now to cut down the number of their car journeys so as to ease traffic congestion and parking problems in towns plus to reduce pollution and carbon emissions.

"If First Bus agrees to run the X51 back through the Winterbourne Valley I am confident that it will find the service receives good usage for shopping, socializing and attending medical appointments, ” said Mr Scarth.

He is asking people to contact Peter McNaughton at First Wessex, Bus Depot, Edward Street, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 7DP to express support for re-routing the X51 through the valley.