EARLY morning and evening rural buses are set to be scrapped, leaving villagers 'isolated.'

The 94 which takes passengers in a loop from Didcot around surrounding villages including the Hagbournes, Upton and Blewbury will operate on a new timetable from October 21.

Changes mean the first bus at 6.30am and another at 7.03am will no longer run, with the service not beginning until the school bus at 7.25am.

The last bus will leave Didcot at 5.02pm, bringing an end to the current 6.20pm and 7.20pm departures.

Thames Travel, who run the service, has blamed low usage and a 'significant' cut in subsidies for the changes but villagers say they will make it impossible for anyone wishing to commute by bus to work.

David Rickeard, the co-chair of the Downland Villages Transport Group (DVTG), said: "We were disappointed when we heard about the planned new timetable - particularly as it was announced only two and a half weeks before it's set to come into place.

"This has always been a very good service for us, we value its punctuality and it is a lifeline for those who use it.

"We understand that they can't run services that are costly but I know the early morning bus in particular is vital for those who work or study in Didcot or Oxford.

"They should also consider the wider benefits to society the buses bring."

Mr Rickeard said many had decided to move to the villages on the understanding there was a regular bus and called for 'stability' in the timetable.

Changes were last made in April of this year when more services were introduced - but these are now being reversed.

Mr Rickeard, who lives in East Hagbourne, said people needing to get to their work or college by 9am now would not be ably to rely on the 94, particularly those needing to catch onward travel at Didcot Parkway station.

Taxis from East Hagbourne to Didcot cost £15 each way and Mr Rickeard said it would be the elderly and vulnerable who don't drive who would be hardest hit.

He said: "It is needed by people who have no other way of getting around.

"It will have a serious impact on a small number of people.

"Buses allow people to get out and be more sociable.

"Health experts tell us that being isolated has a serious impact on your health so buses should be seen in this context."

Last year Bus Users Oxford chairman Hugh Jaeger said Oxfordshire was one of the worst affected counties for bus cuts and blamed central government for ‘strangling’ local council budgets.

Managing director of Thames Travel Phil Southall said: “After the withdrawal of significant subsidies in July 2016 we amended many services to improve efficiency and see if it could make services sustainable.

"This included maintaining vital rural school routes. Unfortunately, the 94 service is still running at a substantial loss, which regrettably we cannot continue to absorb.

"Therefore we have further adjusted the service by removing some of the very lightly used journeys to try and maintain the continued provision of the higher demand journeys.

"We consulted with Oxfordshire County Council throughout the process and are in regular dialogue with parish councils.”