PASSENGERS are celebrating after a last-minute deal saved two bus routes which serve as a vital 'lifeline' for the Witney community.

The two services, which travel between the estates of the town and its centre, were due stop running at the end of this month when operator Go Ride concludes its time as operator.

However, members of the community banded together to form the West Oxfordshire Community Transport Ltd which will now run the routes while not seeking to make a profit.

Though the buses are there to be used by the whole town, they are especially vital to elderly people and those with disabilities who would otherwise struggle to make it into the centre.

Trustee of the group Andrew Lyon, of Witney, said: “For the demographic of people who use them these services are a lifeline.

“These people live in Witney but they live in the estates at the far edges of town. That may as well be Tokyo if you can’t walk or drive.

“People need it. It’s something they can’t do without.”

Fellow trustee Laura Price, who also serves Witney on the town and county council, added: “It’s vital for the local economy and our small traders as well. The bus is most used on market days."

The 214 and 215 services go into the heart of estates around Witney - covering the Cogges estate, Smith's estate and Deer Park estate - from Monday to Saturday.

When the county council withdrew subsidies for the services last summer, Go Ride took it over from Stagecoach, with plans to operate the bus for the short term.

With Go Ride planning to stop running the services at the end of this month, many who depend on them were fearful they would be lost.

But the community collective was formed to ensure they could carry on. It has received support from Witney Town Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and Cottsway Housing association which has allowed them to purchase the bus.

As a not-for-profit company, it will receive a full rebate on fares when passengers use a bus pass.

Grandmother of two, Jill Dean, 80, of the Smith’s Estate, said: “On average I use it daily. It’s important to all of us who use it.

“I get the bus into town for shopping or meeting friends or attending appointments with the doctor or dentist. I would find it very difficult if it was lost, the same as everybody else.

“We are overjoyed that they are keeping it going."

Steve Bennett, 64, of Springfield Park, said he uses the bus nearly every day.

He said: “I use it get into town and do shopping and things. If the service was lost I would have to walk, which would be difficult now that I use a stick.

“There are people in far worse situations than me and losing the service would completely ruin their lives. There are people who walk with frames and things like that and they would have no chance.”

West Oxfordshire Transport Ltd believes the model it has used by taking over the services could set a precedent.

Ms Price said: "If it's a model that works we want to feed it out further and help other communities keep their buses."

The services will be available from Monday, January 30, operated by the newly-formed collective.