DORSET Community Transport (DCT) has stepped in to save almost half of 26 rural bus routes lost to transport funding cuts.

The Blandford-based organisation is helping to reduce the impact of cuts on rural routes across the county, previously run by Dorset County Council.

In April, the county council was forced to reduce spending on subsidising public transport by £500,000 because of reductions in funding from central government.

The biggest impact of these cuts was on rural bus services operating one or two days a week, with support for 26 services withdrawn, including five routes run by DCT.

At the time, DCT was running a pilot scheme of door-to-door transport for people who find it difficult to use public transport through its PlusBus service. The end of the pilot coincided with the cuts, allowing DCT to offer 12 services to the community.

DCT also decided to subsidise two of the services that it ran for Dorset County Council on an interim basis, as part of the organisation’s charitable objectives.

Service user Ella Smith said: “I’ve been a keen supporter of PlusBus since the withdrawal of the bus services were announced. I can use the service to get into Blandford for my weekly shop and doctor’s visits. It means everything to me, a total lifeline.”

Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, said: “The council changes happened within a very short time frame and it meant the local community did not have time to come together and find an alternative. However, due to the fact that DCT was already running a pilot, we were able to jump in quickly with a solution to provide continuity and meet the transport needs of the area.”

Mr Christian added: “It’s been a big cultural change for the community, but we have worked hard to engage with people on how community transport schemes can be more responsive to their needs for social and leisure journeys. We were overwhelmed by demand, queries and concerns.

“Now we have been able to settle into the routes that we run, the next step is to improve, refine and expand the service according to the needs identified by the community.”