CAMPAIGNERS have lost their battle to save the Romsey to Winchester rail-link bus from the axe.

But there is some good news for the protesters - South West Trains-run has promised to pump cash into providing extra buses to plug gaps in Stagecoach's X66 services between the town and Winchester until next summer.

This will mean six extra buses on week days between Romsey and Winchester.

However, this service will be slower, as it makes more stops than the current rail-link bus, which only halts at Woodley, Ampfield, Hursley and the Royal Hampshire County Hospital on its way between Romsey bus station and Winchester railway station.

South West Trains confirmed at a public meeting in Romsey's Abbey United Reformed Church Hall last Thursday night that the rail-link bus would be taken off the road next month.

Jane Lee, spokesperson for South West Trains, said: "We've got together with Stagecoach South to try and fill the gaps in services. We will continue to fund these services until July, which will enable people to get the train from Winchester to London."

South West Trains is axeing the rail-link bus, because it,s used by only 60 passenger per day and was making a financial loss.

It was also pointed out South West Trains new Salisbury to Southampton Central service via Chandler's Ford, starting December 9, will make it easier for rail commuters to get to Eastleigh to catch London-bound connections.

At the packed meeting, organised by Fathers 4 Justice frontman, Matt O'Connor, it was also agreed to set up a working party between the Save us Bus campaign group and Hampshire's transport chiefs. County officials will conduct surveys in a bid to ascertain patronage of the bus service.

Romsey MP, Sandra Gidley, Conservative parliamentary candidate, Caroline Nokes, town mayor, Mark Cooper and councillors from across the area were at the meeting along with representatives from South West Trains and the bus companies.

Nadine Taylor, from the Save our Bus campaign, said she wanted to retain the extension to the X66 service beyond the six months promised so far.

"I will be approaching all parties over the next week with a view to getting everyone around the table before Christmas to start work on this project," she said.

"My main concern is that the six months will go by very quickly, so I intend to harness the wave of support and goodwill shown by everyone at the meeting and bring all parties together as soon as possible.

"I would urge the public to do their bit by using the service to show their support to Romsey and Winchester."

Claiming authorities had tried to keep people in the dark about the planned axeing of the rail-link bus, Nadine added: "It was clear that all parties had deliberately kept this information from the public as long as possible so that it was presented to bus and rail travellers as a fait accompli."

Today (November 9) the campaigners are taking their protest to Winchester.

Nadine described what's in store. "We will be taking the rail-link bus from Romsey bus station to Winchester rail station dressed up in a Father Christmas theme to raise awareness of the campaign there and get people to sign petitions and lend their support. This is a very important part of the campaign because it is Winchester that would bear the brunt of the increased number of cars coming into the city, this is something Winchester cannot afford to have in light of the recent environment reports."