PLANS to slash rural bus services in and around Marlborough because of budget cuts by Wiltshire County Council have been condemned by a former mayor.

Evening services between Swindon and Marlborough have been cut entirely and regular daily services linking Bedwyn and Marlborough will begin running to a reduced timetable from Monday.

The decision was made after savings of £500,000 had to be found within the transport budget.

Marlborough town councillor Nick Fogg, who also represents the town on Wiltshire Council, condemned the loss of some rural bus services and described them as a key lifeline for villagers surrounding Marlborough without access to their own cars.

The former mayor said: “A lot of people depend on these rural services as they have no other choice of getting around so I deplore the cutting of these services because they will affect people’s lives in many ways that matter.

“It’s a service that I myself use often and it is a loss to the community.”

The decision to cut bus services came after 11,000 people took part in a council consultation.

The council’s budget currently subsidises £4.5m worth of bus travel that runs at a loss, but the 19, 20, 21, 22, X20 and 217 in Marlborough will all be altered in the most recent round of cuts.

The 21, 70A, 72A and 95 will stop entirely and bus operator Thamesdown Transport will hand over the 19 service to Tourist Coaches, a service that provides Cadley and Burbage residents a regular link to Marlborough.

Alex Chutter, Thamesdown general manager, said: “Wiltshire Council previously provided funding for these services – but has withdrawn the subsidy following a review.

The company said that not enough people were using the route to cover the cost of fuel and staff wages for bus drivers.

“It was just not possible for us to continue running these services at our own cost, so we have taken the decision – in full consultation with the council – to withdraw them,” he continued.

A bus traveller added: “It is a real shame, this has been a great service for people who rely on buses as their only way to get out and about.”

Bridget Wayman, cabinet member for transport at Wiltshire Council, said: “We had a huge response to the consultation last year. It really showed how much people value their local buses, and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to take part.

“The information we had really has helped us, and we continue to buck the national trend by safeguarding the services people really need.”

Journeys for workers and rural services were highlighted as key areas of importance by members of the public who took part in the consultation. Around 97 per cent of journeys will remain unaffected by the cuts across Wiltshire.

Changes to the services have been published throughout bus stops in Marlborough.