Impending cuts to Council-funded services are in the news at the moment and Somerset County Council (SCC) is not exempt. Fears about the future of many rural bus routes in Somerset may be about to be confirmed. The Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’ route, which has given me most of my conducting turns in the last 6 years, is one of the services likely to be cut.
For those that don’t know, the 400 is a circular tourist route which starts on Minehead seafront and takes passengers on a vintage Bristol Lodekka open top bus through the picturesque West Somerset countryside. We pass through Dunster, Timberscombe, Wheddon Cross, Exford and Porlock before returning to Minehead. We cross part of Exmoor, after a lot of hill-climbing (slowly!) and then descend the formidable Porlock Hill (also slowly!) which is reputed to be one of the steepest A-roads in Britain.
It has been reported that up to 50% of rural routes will be affected (i.e. cut) but confirmation will come later in February after the Council announces the list of routes that they can no longer fund.
The 400 is wholly funded by SCC and Quantock Motor Services has been operating the route on their behalf for nearly a decade. The only glimmer of hope is that QMS might run a limited version of the 400 in July and August on a purely commercial basis. This would probably mean that the adult round-trip fare would rise from last year’s £7.00 and almost certainly that no bus passes of any sort would be valid. If I hear or read any further news, I will post it here.
With the demise of the 400 (and hopefully armed with a PCV Driver’s Licence) I will be available to conduct or drive for other operators of heritage vehicles but I may still appear at QMS events such as the Running Day in May and private hire jobs such as weddings and WSR shuttles.
In other news, I’m pencilled in to take a PCV Bus Driver Course in Exeter. This will probably be in March.