VILLAGERS fear they will be left 'isolated' when a bus service between Oxford and Witney stops running in April.

Stagecoach Oxfordshire has confirmed the number 11 service, which serves North Leigh, Freeland, Long Hanborough and Eynsham, will be withdrawn from April 29.

The bus company said the 11, which is used by 35 people on average each day, is no longer 'commercially viable' and encouraged customers to find alternative routes.

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But the decision means passengers in Freeland will only be served by a community bus service running once a week, while several sixth formers at Eynsham's Bartholomew School rely on the route.

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Liam Walker, county councillor for Hanborough and Minster Lovell, is concerned about how the decision will impact residents.

He said: "It's not good enough because it's going to cut off Freeland completely.

"We need to try to encourage more people to use the bus until April to show there's a need for it.

"A lot of elderly people use it to get to the hospital and the shops who are otherwise isolated."

In September 2016, the 11 stopped running on Saturdays, while it currently stops in the villages just five times each day on weekdays.

Stagecoach claims the 35 passengers each day are those whose 'journey couldn't be made using another direct Stagecoach service'.

The company added that '50 per cent of those have alternative arrangements available using ticketing onto connecting Stagecoach services or on rail services'.

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The Freeland Community Bus service was framed as more convenient than the 11 when it launched in December, but offers just one return journey to Witney each week.

Merilyn Davies, West Oxfordshire district councillor for Freeland and Hanborough, wants a 'total rethink' of rural bus provision and is working with Blenheim Palace on establishing a new service.

They have held talks with Stagecoach and community bus providers, while Ms Davies has emphasised the need for a bus that serves commuters, students and families in Hanborough and Freeland.

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At today's district council meeting, she will ask for an amendment to the proposed council budget asking that £30,000 of the £270,000 allocated for businesses is ringfenced for community transport initiatives.

She said: "We must combat rural isolation, mitigate costs associated with rural travel and encourage community wealth building; the start point to this is with the provision of an effective bus service for all residents in West Oxfordshire."

Stagecoach confirmed it has not put alternative provision for students in place, adding 'Oxfordshire County Council already has existing school buses that serve Long Hanborough and Freeland'.

The company said it had 'no plans' to divert the S1 and S2 services to Freeland 'due to the low number of passengers who would require this'.