VILLAGERS in South Oxfordshire saved their bus service by agreeing to pay higher fares.

The Five Parishes Bus Users Group for Watlington, Cuxham, Chalgrove, Stadhampton and Garsington rescued the T1 to Oxford by making the arrangement with Thames Travel.

The bus company told the group the hourly service had been running at a loss, and gave them the option for it to run only once every two hours, or pay more.

Chairman and South Oxfordshire district councillor for Chalgrove David Turner said: “We didn’t consult people, we just said ‘if it has to be it has to be’, and we are very pleased it will continue as an hourly service.

“For many people the T1 is the only way they can get to work, but people also use it for leisure and shopping, particularly older people.

“A lot of people in the villages shop in Temple Cowley shopping centre.

“We felt quite strongly that we wanted to maintain it as an hourly service because that is the most convenient for people when you know it is every hour at a certain time.”

An adult single from Watlington into the city will go up from £3.90 to £4.10, from Chalgrove from £3.70 to £3.90, and from Garsington from £2.50 to £3.

The new prices will come into effect from June 1 and the company has only promised the service has been saved until the end of the year.

Now the bus users’ group is trying to publicise the service to make it more profitable. Oxfordshire County Council said it had also agreed a “small subsidy” to help support the service.

On Friday, the Oxford Mail revealed the council was planning to cut about £2.3m from the £3.68m it pays subsidising 105 county bus routes.

Mr Turner, a former county councillor, said he sympathised with the council’s position in needing to make cuts.

Thames Travel general manager Stefan Soanes said the T1 was “far from profitable”.

He said: “Passenger numbers are falling and it [the service] has been hit by a whole series of roadworks, which have meant the T1 is losing even more money.

“In fact, the main road in Cuxham is currently closed again for three to four weeks while a sewer is being replaced and the diversion we’ve put in place needs an extra two buses and drivers.

“Although some of the journeys are well used, many in the late morning and early afternoon are lightly used and faced withdrawal. We held discussions with the bus users’ group and the overwhelming view was that we should increase fares in a bid to generate extra income.”

He said the situation would be reviewed at the end of the year.