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CAMPAIGNERS have won their fight to save a lifeline bus serving our rural towns and villages.

More than 1,000 people signed petitions to stop Stagecoach cutting the number 3 bus between Grimsby and Lincoln after a 20 per cent cut in its tax relief on fuel.

The existing hourly service between Lincoln and Market Rasen has been saved and there will be a bus every two hours from Market Rasen to Grimsby.

The 3B bus – used by De Aston pupils in Binbrook and Tealby – has also been saved.

The news will come as a massive relief to hundreds of people who rely on the bus for things like work, college and hospital appointments – but it remains unclear where the funding has come from.

Just last week the bus company insisted it could only afford to run five buses a day on the number 3 route – leaving Lincoln at 6.55am, 8.40am, 1.40pm, 3.40pm and 5.40pm.

And at the end of last month Coun Burt Keimach said it would cost £333 a day to run the number 3 bus at its present level. He said: “That comes to £2,000 a week. I do not want to say there is no hope whatsoever, but hope is slim to save the service in its current state.”

The Rasen Mail contacted the council’s executive member for highways and transportation Coun William Webb, the county council’s public transport manager Anita Ruffle, Coun Burt Keimach and Stagecoach’s commercial director Dave Skepper – none of these people were able to explain where the funding came from.

In an e-mail to councillors Lincolnshire County Council’s head of transportation Chris Briggs said no extra funding had been used but there had been a “reallocation of movements”.

The decision to save the service came after lengthy discussions between Stagecoach and the county council. Stagecoach East Midlands managing director Gary Nolan said the two parties had agreed on a “package”, but he was unavailable to provide any more information.

Campaigner Guy Grainger said: “It’s great news but we couldn’t have done this without the backing of the Market Rasen Mail.”

Market Rasen De Aston School’s head teacher Ellenor Beighton – who last week spoke to the Rasen Mail about her shock at proposals to cut the 3B bus – said: “We are delighted to hear that the bus company have been able to save this service.

“We do appreciate the commercial pressures that all businesses face at the moment, but the impact of the proposals would have been devastating for our rural community.”

Market Rasen resident Dawn Lancaster feared she would have to give up her job at a shop in Grimsby if the bus cuts went ahead. She says she has been very lucky.

Dawn said: “Getting to work isn’t going to be a problem and luckily my employer has let me finish 45 minutes early so I can get the last bus back”

The new timetable runs from April 2.