WEST Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has called for a massive show of support to save a vital bus route between Minehead and Taunton.

Mr Liddell-Grainger wants as many people as possible, whether or not they are bus users, to tell Somerset Council it must do all it can to save the No 28 bus, which also serves Watchet, Williton Dunster, and other communities along the A39 and A358.

There have repeated warnings about the future of the route, which is one of four the council currently subsidises with Government money to safeguard their future until the spring.

But Mr Liddell-Grainger said it was ‘unthinkable’ that the service could be curtailed when the subsidy stops at the end of March.

He said: “The point is that the 28 is a vital public service and for hundreds of people in West Somerset there is no alternative to it, no other company running buses over the same route, and no trains.

“The buses may not run at capacity all the time but that does not mean people do not need them to be there.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said part of the issue around low usage stemmed from the fact the bus service had become less reliable.

He said: “I am constantly getting complaints about buses running late or not even turning up at all, or breaking down.

“And when people feel they cannot rely on the bus to get them to a train or a medical appointment then they are going to resort to using their cars.

“If that reliability record could be improved so that people knew the buses would run as advertised, I am convinced passenger numbers would steadily rise.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he did not accept First Bus’s explanation that the reliability problems stemmed from a lack of drivers.

“It seems to me particularly that every time there is a staff shortage it is the 28 route that takes the hit,” he said.

“I need to get clear assurances from the council and First Bus that the route will remain even if that means adopting slightly more intelligent timetabling, such as reducing the frequency of buses during the quieter parts of the day.

“I shall also be trying to ascertain at what point First Group intends to provide modern, comfortable, draught-free vehicles for the route rather than the current fleet which looks as though it has come from a transport museum.”