A BUS service is being reinstated with £16,000 of public subsidy to bring shoppers into Lymington for the town’s Saturday market.
Morebus’s weekday 119 service stopped linking the town with New Milton at the weekend after Hampshire County Council cancelled its subsidy in 2015.
To sustain visitor numbers to the historic market, Lymington and Pennington Town Council has now allocated new money to bring it back to pick up passengers on the route through Pennington, Everton, Hordle and Ashley.
Times will be the same as the current weekday service with an extra 3pm trip from Lymington to help shoppers at the end of trading.
If the arrangements first proposed last year are rubber-stamped by HCC, the bus will start running on 6th April with return fares of up to £7.20 in line with Morebus charging policy.
Town clerk Caroline Godfrey told a meeting of the full council: “Many of us were upset and distressed at the removal of the 119 bus on a Saturday.
“Many of our people were dependent on it, particularly to get to the market. We have been busy looking at ways to reinstate that service.
“Last year we knew the market was suffering and residents were not able to visit our town on a Saturday. This council investigated whether this could be reinstated, or an alternative, to bring footfall to our town.”
Cllr Anna Rostand welcomed the decision – which was unanimously voted through – and said: “There have been a lot of hoops to go through. This is a good news story.”
Cllr Alan Penson, chair of the policy and resources committee, asked for regular reports from Morebus on passenger numbers.
He said: “We’re proposing to spend quite a lot of money and we should be entitled to a regular check, so we know we’re getting value for money.”
Mrs Godfrey added: “It would be important to report back to council to make sure we are getting value for money and judging whether it is a successful project that deserves funding for the next financial year.”
On Mrs Godfrey’s recommendation, councillors rejected a series of other proposals including hourly Lymington-Pennington shuttle services costing up to £13,000 at £2 a ticket. HCC had warned that operation posed a financial risk to the council.
The chosen option of reviving the Saturday 119 service had the advantage of its timetable and wider route already being familiar to passengers, said Mrs Godfrey.
Adam Keen, Morebus general manager, told the A&T: “We are delighted to be working with Lymington and Pennington Town Council to operate our 119 route on Saturdays. Buses will run at the same times as our Monday to Friday services – with an additional journey leaving Lymington at 3pm.
“The decision by the town council to fund this service follows feedback from those living and working in the area, and we are expecting a positive response, with many travelling with us to visit the popular Lymington market.”
As reported in the A&T, more recent subsidy cuts by Hampshire County Council worth £1.1m saw the 112 Hythe-Lymington route have its Saturday service cancelled.
The H1/H2 Netley View-Applemore was retimed to Monday-Friday off-peak only; the T3/T4 Totton-Cadnam retimed to Monday-Friday off-peak only and the Saturday service cancelled; and the Bluestar 6 Lymington-Southampton had its morning peak journey retimed.