A SUDDEN slashing of bus services in the Wincanton and Castle Cary areas has left passengers "dumbfounded".
South West Coaches is axing 13 of its regular local services within the next six weeks.
Among those to be scrapped is the number 28 from Templecombe to Salisbury, which passes through Wincanton.
The 109 from Wincanton to Dorchester and 32 from Castle Cary to Salisbury are also getting the chop.
Brenda Markey, of Wincanton, regularly uses the number 28 service and was stunned to hear the news.
She said: "I was dumbfounded when I heard. I just went to catch the bus and saw the notice.
"I know some buses don't have many people on them, but the number 28 to Salisbury regularly has around 40 people on board.
"We wouldn't mind paying for the bus to continue – we understand that South West Coaches can't keep running them at a loss – but they should at least try and keep the more popular ones. We have used the buses for a long time.
"It all came completely out of the blue and everyone is really upset. We just didn't see it coming."
The number 28 service, which also passes through Horsington, North Cheriton, South Cheriton and Mere, runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays to take passengers to the markets in Salisbury.
Brian Chambers, of Horsington, stopped driving five years ago and is one of the service's most regular passengers. He believes it will be the elderly and disabled who suffer most from the cuts.
Mr Chambers said: "It is something I use very regularly and it is a facility I am going to miss.
"Some people who live out in the countryside can't get to Wincanton or Yeovil very easily.
"With the soaring price of trains and petrol, times have never been harder, and this is another bit of bad news which we didn't need.
"People say they are trying to get more people onto buses and out of their cars, but this completely contradicts that."
Lewis Trahar, service manager at South West Coaches, said the "difficult decision" was made due to increasing costs and a cut in fare subsidies by Somerset County Council.
He said: "There are two factors contributing to this.
"They are the reduction in the concessionary rate contribution we receive for carrying pensioners with a free bus pass plus the reduction in fuel duty relief from the Government.
"The vast majority of passengers on these routes are those with a bus pass so, as a result of the cuts, we have seen our revenue decline and our costs rise.
"We realise the difficulty it will cause many of our passengers.
"It is not a decision we wanted to take."
A Somerset County Council spokesman said it would not comment as the decision was a commercial one made by South West Coaches.