VILLAGERS are celebrating a year-long reprieve after bus routes which had faced the axe had their contracts renewed.

Essex County Council has awarded contracts for the 91, 92 and 95 services from Tollesbury.

All three faced being cut last summer before County Hall stepped in to save the services.

Just months later in November the council launched a consultation reviewing seven routes across Maldon and the Dengie.

The proposals come just two months after the council agreed to review the routes after a campaign by MP Priti Patel when passengers encountered difficulties.

Last week County Hall confirmed it had awarded contracts for the 91, 92 and 95 routes but all would have timetable changes. It is not yet known what these will be.

All the changes will come into force from September.

Margaret Salmon, of Church Street, Goldhanger, who uses the 95 route, said: “At least we have got another year. It is a very much needed service.

“Nobody knows when they might need it – I’ve got a neighbour who has a car but has got her arm in plaster so she is using the bus at the moment and is grateful for it.

“This morning the bus was full of teenagers going for a picnic in Tollesbury and into Promenade Park.”

She said if the council was looking to make changes to the timetable it should look at consulting passengers.

“I could ask people for their opinions,” she said. “There is a long gap between the 11.40am bus and the 2pm bus – it is a long gap at lunch time.”

Under the changes the number 75 service from Colchester to Maldon, which ran during the evenings from Monday to Saturday, is being withdrawn.

The council is investigating a low cost alternative for the D4 Maldon to St Lawrence route, which runs throughout the day on Monday to Saturday.

No decision has yet been taken on the D6 service, which links Southminster and Althorne from Monday to Friday.

The DaRT 5 between Stow Maries and South Woodham Ferrers and the D1/2 Southminster/Bradwell-on-Sea to Maldon have both been renewed with timetable changes.

David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “During this latest redesign we found that the future cost of supporting some less well used bus services would have needed taxpayers to contribute more than the price of a flight to Lanzarote each time somebody used the bus.

“That is clearly not sustainable. The good news is that this was true of very few services as most services are well used and supported by their communities.

“I can assure residents that no bus service is ever withdrawn without us exploring all other alternatives.”