THE Ilminster Shuttle has been launched in villages around the town this week, but one councillor has warned the new service could be a ‘backward step’.

The first buses ran on Monday morning (September 3) and are being provided by Somerset County Council.

The new routes will serve villages including Ashill, Broadway, Horton, Shepton Beauchamp, Barrington, Puckington, Stocklinch, Whitelackington, and Ilton.

The need for a replacement service first came after NippyBus ceased trading in October last year.

Initially, the council provided a ‘Slinky’ service for people in need of public transport which could be booked at any time and pick up from the door.

A council spokesman said: “Hopefully this service will be of huge benefit to commuters and enable them to link up with the Taunton service.

“They have built this service around the most popular times. It runs from 9am until 2.30pm because bookings just dropped away after that.”

SCC also say the timetable has been designed so that a reasonable number of the shuttle buses can link with the 30 service to Taunton.

Cllr John Woodman, cabinet member for Highways and Transport, added: “We’re delighted to be able to provide this much-needed timetabled service for local communities.

“It ensures residents have a regular link to Ilminster, without having to phone up and book – they can now just turn up at the bus stop.”

However, David Amor, chairman of Ilton Parish Council, has warned the new service could be a ‘backwards step’.

The Ilminster Shuttle will stop once in the village, while NippyBus used to stop in two places and the Slinky bus could pick people up from their doors.

Mr Amor said: “There were a lot of people who used the old NippyBus and then the replacement service who are refusing to use this one.

“For the people who live at the bottom of the village where the other existing stop is, they aren’t able to use this.

“I think it is a backwards step. You also can’t get onto Chard or that way, so it isn’t serving well as an integrated service.”

Mr Amor also fears that there will be ‘a lot of empty buses’.

He added: “There has been no consultation of the parish council, they haven’t talked to the village, and they have just imposed this.

“To have a set timetable is good, I am not knocking the idea, but I just think they need to use the second bus stop.”

The fears were added to after SCC said the new service is not likely to be open for change.

The spokesman said: “I don’t think there is any scope at this stage for adding to that service.

“We have used the Slinky bus demand to get an understanding of when it is needed, but it may be a case of seeing how it goes from Monday.

“We have worked out that this is sustainable and we can provide it with our own fleet of low floor accessible minibuses. It is a timetable we know we can stick with and provide.

“There isn’t a trial period. We are committed to that service.

“I don’t think they have had much demand for a Saturday service at the moment, but it is something I am sure they will be listening out for.”