A new bus that has been “worth fighting for” will restore a vital service to cut off communities in North East Somerset.

There was outcry in Paulton after the “lifeline” 82 bus was cut last year, leaving an estate in the village without its beloved bus. Meanwhile in villages such as Tunley, people have been left with no buses at all.

Now a new route set to launch in the spring, will bring a bus route back to those communities. It will once again link cut off parts of Paulton to the Midsomer Norton Tesco. In the other direction, it will extend all the way to Odd Down Park and Ride on the edge of Bath.

The bus is planned to run through Midsomer Norton to Radstock, and to serve Radford, Timsbury, and Tunley on its way to Odd Down. It is hoped the bus’ first journey will be on April 8th and run five times a day, although the start date and route could change slightly while it is confirmed with the operator.

It is the first bus to be funded through the West of England Combined Authority’s (WECA) WESTlocal scheme, a £2m fund to allow local communities to design and run their own not-for-profit bus services. Paulton Parish Council applied for the bus, with the application led by Parish Councillor Grant Johnson, who also represents the village on Bath and North East Somerset Council along with Councillor Liz Hardman.

Councillor Johnson said: “After setting up a Bus Working Party on Paulton Parish Council last year, myself, Councillor Liz Hardman, and Councillor Cyril Mitchard have worked with local experts to come up with this WESTlocal. We wanted to make sure that it covered all the areas that are not served by a bus, including areas where there is a particular need for social mobility.

“I’m pleased we’ve been successful in securing this funding from the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, led by Mayor Dan Norris. Let’s get on with making this vital service for Paultonians a success.”

Councillor Hardman said: “We have fought so hard for this. And we have got a better bus even than the 82.”

After the 82 was cut, sisters Maragret Dando and Janet Stevens were among those who travelled to Keynsham to protest outside of a WECA meeting, calling for local services to be restored. They warned that the walk to the next-nearest bus stop would not be possible for them in the winter.

Attending the announcement of the new bus together, Ms Dando said: “I’m just delighted but not just for me, for all the others around the estate.”

Ms Stevens said: “It’s been a long fight but worth fighting for.”

She added: “It’s a big thing for the village. A lot of people had given up but we didn’t.”

Mr Mitchard added: “It’s great to have a service back. It should never have been taken off in the first place but due to difficulties between Bath and North East Somerset Council and WECA it was.”

Buses were cut across the region last year after the three councils which make up WECA did not increase their “transport levy” — which WECA uses to support buses which are commercially profitable — in line with extreme 40% inflation in the bus sector. It led to a public spat between Mr Norris and the councils over who was responsible for paying for the buses.

Now the WESTlocal fund allows community groups such as schools, faith groups, or town and parish councils, to come up with plans for a bus service and bid for the founding themselves.

Mr Norris said: “I want to empower the community to come up with their own solutions and I look forward to more people applying in the future.”

He added: “I’m excited that this is about giving power to the community. They rightly are concerned about the bus services and this is a really good way for them to come up with a way to meet their needs.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s member advocate for rural communities, Fiona Gourley (Bathavon South, Liberal Democrat) said she was “delighted” there was a new bus but said it was “frustrating” that officers at Bath and North East Somerset Council had not been contacted about the plan. She said: “We would much rather talk to all the people involved to create a proper network for our residents.”