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Town council funding supports open top bus

AN open top bus service in Lyme Regis is gearing up for a busy season after attracting public funding for the first time.

The Mendip Mule Motorbus, a hop on/hop off bus tour in West Dorset and East Devon, has been awarded £1,500 by Lyme Regis Town Council.

The fleet of British heritage tour buses run between Lyme Regis, Colyton, Beer, Seaton, Axminster and Rousdon, as well as Charmouth from this year.

Lyme Regis Town Council is the first local authority to recognise its value to the community by providing financial backing.

Derek Gawn, who launched the company in 2014, thanked the town council for the funding, which has come at a critical time for the business.

He said: “The grant will make life much less hand-to-mouth for the company and hopefully will leave the company able to fund some cosmetic improvements to the fleet.

“This was work that sadly had to be shelved after the poor trading results of 2015 and 2016

“I have spent 47 years in the industry and I’m planning to retire at the close of the 2019 season. That leaves me just two more seasons after this one to get the business on a firm and secure financial footing, so that I can attract and train up a young enthusiastic team who will want to take it on into the future.

“So this 2017 season is critical for success and that is why I am so pleased to have Lyme Regis Town Council along for the ride, so to speak.”

Lyme Regis mayor, Cllr Michaela Ellis went on board one of the open-top buses to present Mr Gawn and transport assistant Lesley Bartholomew with a cheque.

Cllr Ellis said: “This service is a fantastic attraction for Lyme Regis, not only to visitors but also for residents.

“It’s fun, traditional and unique. It brings people into the town, and I’m sure anyone who hadn’t planned on getting off at Lyme Regis would change their minds as soon as they see how beautiful the town is from their vantage point on the open-top bus.

“It’s a great way to explore the Jurassic Coast and offers a day out for families who are looking for something a bit different.”

The Mendip Mule is now on board with the council’s Gateway Card scheme, which means Lyme Regis residents can take advantage of discount fares.

Mr Gawn said: “As a little thank you to the folk of Lyme, I’m pleased to offer £2 off all full day fares to card holders on every day of the 2017 operating season.”

The season kicked off over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and runs until 28 September.

Mr Gawn is confident the service will boost the local economy, after last year’s statistics revealed 85% of passengers got off at Lyme Regis and spent up to five hours in the town.

“This has to be good for the town and its traders,” he said. “These people may not otherwise have visited but simply passed through in their cars.”

Timetables are available from the tourist information centre.