Bus services being scrapped in Sherborne and nearby villages could be replaced by excursions – that passengers will have to pay for regardless of bus passes.
South West Coaches is considering running excursions to replace five routes being slashed serving Sherborne, Thornford, Bradford Abbas, Yetminster, Purse Caundle, Stalbridge, Milborne Port, Henstridge, Oborne and Nether Compton, and reaching as far as Salisbury and Poole.
The routes are among 13 services to be withdrawn across Dorset and Somerset, which the company claims is due to cuts in subsidies from the county council since April.
Following public outcry since the announcement the bus company has sent out questionnaires to see if people would pay for an excursion service. If put in place, everyone would have to pay regardless of whether they have a bus pass.
Town councillor Susan Green said it would be better than scrapping the buses entirely.
She said: “This idea might be better than nothing if enough people can face using it. But it’s not the same thing as having a regular bus service.
“In the rush of nowadays life if it’s an irregular service people can’t rely on it as they can’t get back when they need to – it will only work if enough people can use it.
“The problem is that the Government isn’t paying the bus companies enough money to subsidise the bus passes.
“Since the Government’s aim is travel should be free for over 60s, it seems a great pity to have to go back on this.”
The services set to be withdrawn include the 74 from Yeovil to Sherborne, which ceases on November 30 alongside the numbers 3 and 36 services from Gillingham to Yeovil.
The Sherborne to Salisbury service number 15 is also being scrapped from November 27, and the number 7 service from Sherborne to Poole will go on November 26.
Lewis Trahar, service manager at South West Coaches, said: “At present, we have cancelled the services and they will stop on the dates published. We did not take this decision lightly and take it with regret. As a company, we can’t afford to run services at a loss.
“Running some of the services as an excursion rather than a bus route is an option we are considering.
“However, if we saw the same numbers going on excursions as we currently do on some of the bus routes, they also won’t survive.”
Questionnaires on the issue are being distributed to bus drivers and members of the communities.