A VITAL bus service that was under threat has been saved “forever”.

The number 46 bus, which runs between North Baddesley and Winchester and is used by more than 15,000 residents each year, is now safe, although one route could be stopped.

But civic chiefs in North Baddesley have confirmed they’re in negotiation with bus company Stagecoach in a bid to save the service as a whole and keep all the daily trips as they are.

This follows a public outcry after the announcement that the service was only guaranteed until March 2019.

As previously reported, the service had been under threat as a result of proposed cuts to transport and environmental services by Hampshire County Council.

In March this year county leaders said the service would be safe for 12 months when it would then be looked at again, along with other bus services on a longer-term basis.

But following the outcome of a public consultation, county leaders decided to look at their plans again.

Cllr Rob Humby, Hampshire County Council’s executive member for environment and transport, said: “With the growing pressures across public sector services, we have had to look at many services we provide to make sure the limited resources we have are directed to where they are most needed.

“The budget used to support public transport has recently been reviewed using travel data as well as the results of a county wide consultation with the public.

“In the specific case of the number 46, given that it provides 15,358 passenger journeys a year, I am satisfied this service is well used by the community and it is appropriate that the county council makes a contribution to ensure that this service continues to run.”

The authority confirmed that the annual cost to run the number 46 bus was £40,781 and said the cost would be met by Hampshire County Council’s £2 million annual bus subsidy budget.

But although the service has been saved, the trips from North Baddesley at 10.03am and from Winchester at 3.10pm are still under threat. The county council has proposed stopping the route.

But Alan Dowden, county councillor for Baddesley, has said North Baddesley and Valley Park parish councils have confirmed a contribution of £4,000 a year to help guarantee the route.

“I don’t know how much they [Stagecoach] will need but it won’t be more than £5,000. It’s vital that the service keeps running. If they had lost that service many people in Valley Park, Ampfield and North Baddesley would be isolated,” Cllr Dowden said. The Romsey Advertiser contacted Stagecoach but they had not responded at the time of going to press.