WEST Cornwall’s unique open top 300 bus service will not return to service until the end of May, due to budget constraints from Cornwall Council.
Traditionally the service is up and running from Easter weekend yet it has now been confirmed it will return on May 24 – when it becomes profitable.
The bus does a circuit from Penzance to Land’s End, via Sennen and St Just, drawing tourists because of its unique views over the top of high Cornish hedges.
It is run by First Bus but during the less profitable “shoulder” months it is subsidised by Cornwall Council because of the benefit it brings the local economy.
Holiday cottage owner Julia Revill, from Bosavern near St Just, said they had a booking from a couple with a small child who were visiting, as usual, purely by public transport.
She said: “We did tell them that the Greyhound buses in this area were no longer running, the buses to Penzance had been halved, but the open top bus service 300 had not been cut, so they decided to book.
“Seeing no buses running over Easter, unlike last year, we thought we had better check. Information was very hard to find. First Bus’ website showed last year’s timetable, and an e-mail to them said a response could take up to 14 days. There was no information at the bus station. Eventually we got through to First’s Southampton office and found out there will be no open top until 24 May.
“With embarrassment we had to tell our guests that if they manage to get here they can’t go anywhere.”
Guesthouse owner Arnaud Ruetsch, who leads Penzance Tourist Association, said: “We give a timetable to every visitor who walks through the door. It’s one of Penzance’s most popular attractions and everyone uses it at least once.
“It is not just us who will be affected by this. Every small stop it makes, like Sennen and Land’s End, will lose out.”
Julia Revill agrees: “In reality it’s not just about tourists and the open top bus. It’s about the resident population and the economy - reduced flights from Newquay, no helicopter service for the Scillies, and a fragile train service.”
Alex Carter, managing director of First South West, said: “Historically, the 300 service has been operated mostly commercially, but with Cornwall Council financial support for the 'shoulder' periods from Easter to Whitsun, and the month of September after schools return.
“Because of the council's budgetary constraints, understandably it is not able to offer that support this year, therefore we have shortened the season this year to commence at Whitsun and run through to September.”