A VITAL bus service connecting Wellington, Wiveliscombe and Taunton could be lost if another operator cannot be found.

Quantock Heritage, which runs the number 10 service, has announced it would be axing the service from next month.

The company says it has become “economically unviable” but would be applying for the tender again.

But now Somerset County Council has stepped in to try and safeguard the service.

Not only does it connect the villages around Wellington but the bus acts as a direct service to Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital.

Cabinet member for highways and transport, Cllr Harvey Siggs, said: “We are inviting tenders from local bus operators to continue running the number 10 service and we hope to find another operator as soon as possible.”

One angry Wiveliscombe resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The Buses of Somer-set 25 service does not cover the same vast area and surrounding villages.

“Now people will have to pay £3 more per journey for a service which takes twice as long to reach the destination.

“This is yet another needed rural service in Somerset being axed.

“It has left those without their own transport and the elderly and vulnerable in areas where there is no public transport stranded and cut off.”

However, Quantock Heritage said it hoped a ‘seamless transition’ would take place, meaning the service might not be axed after all.

Managing director Stephen Morris said: “We had applied to the council for subsidies but unfortunately these were not given until the service was no longer viable.

“We have applied for the tender of the service again and we will work to make sure that if we get the tender or someone else does, we will work hard to make the transition seamless so that the service can continue and there won’t be a period hopefully where it isn’t running.”

The service is due to stop when the schools break up for the summer holidays.

A decision on the tender of the service is due later this month.

Town and county councillor Andrew Govier said: “It is sad that we could potentially lose a service which for many people in Wiveliscombe and the surrounding villages, is a lifeline.

“People rely on this service to get into Wellington and I was speaking to a blind couple who have to use the bus because they can’t drive to come and do their shopping in Wellington.

“I really hope that all efforts are made to ensure this service keeps going.”