PASSENGERS have breathed a sigh of relief after council bosses put the brakes on plans to axe a village bus service which runs through Hagley, Clent and Belbroughton.
Regulars on the 197 were getting set to say goodbye to their beloved Hagley to Kidderminster bus, which was due to cease running on Friday February 21, but as they enjoyed what they thought would be their final journey they were told the scenic service had been saved.
The stay of execution for the bus is believed to be only temporary but nevertheless passengers have been celebrating.
Regular 197 user Janet Bloomfield from Clent, who had boarded the bus with friends for a final "nostalgia" trip to Kidderminster on Thursday February 20, said part way through the journey a woman boarded the bus and said the service would be continuing.
Bemused by the news - passengers did not believe their luck until they returned to board for their return journey at 12.30pm when they discovered a note on the bus saying the service would continue to run until June.
She said: "We're delighted."
A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council has since said the 197, together with the 7a Kidderminster service, will continue to run "until at least September" and the future of the two buses will be considered as part of a wider review into routes subsidised by the county council to the tune of £3million.
The spokesman added: "This is in line with the request by council for an extended analysis of the subsidised services that were subject to the consultation."
Councillor John Smith OBE, Worcestershire County Council's cabinet member for highways, said “We've consistently said that due to the financial challenges there's no easy answers when it comes tough issues like this but, importantly, we stressed the public's views would be taken into account and this shows that we are listening."
The 197 and 7a had been earmarked to be withdrawn, as a result of 2011 budget cuts, and replaced with a community transport scheme.
But the services were included in "error" in the county council's consultation into the future of subsidised bus routes - the very consultation that will now determine their fate.
Hagley based bus campaigner Neil Lambert welcomed the 197 reprieve more cautiously - saying: "It's nice that they've deferred it but they need to tell us what they're going to do."
He accused the county council of using "very vague language" and added: "How are they going to notify people that it's still running?"
County councillor for Clent Hills, Rachel Jenkins, said she was pleased the service would continue for the time being but added: "How long it will last for we don't know."