Early morning and late evening services are to be withdrawn from a popular bus route in a move labelled as 'very severe' by campaigners.

First Wessex has published its winter bus timetable and there are changes to the X51 and X53 Jurassic Coast routes, connecting Bridport, Lyme Regis and Axminster with Weymouth and Dorchester.

The West Dorset Western Area Transport Action Group (WATAG) says it is concerned about the withdrawal of Sunday services until Easter 2020 - although there will be a three-hourly X53 service between Weymouth and Bridport, via Chickerell, Abbotsbury, Burton Bradstock and West Bay until 22 December.

This is courtesy of a member of the WATAG advisory group who has sponsored it, and the group is urging people to take advantage of it and help justify running it.

It has also expressed concern that the X51 to Dorchester will become a two-hourly service and early morning and late evening services are to be withdrawn on both routes.

It says the changes are being introduced without notice and without any consultation with users of the services being withdrawn. It has written to both the bus company and Dorset Council to express these concerns, and the impact it will have on those who rely on public transport to access work.

WATAG chairman, Bob Driscoll, said: "These cuts are very severe and the danger is that the less attractive the service becomes, the less it will be used, leading to a downward spiral of fewer passengers and thus further cuts. We have seen this happen so often in the past.

"At a time when Dorset Council has signed up to the 'Climate Emergency', one might have hoped that the emphasis would be on encouraging the use of public transport by making it more user friendly.

"We are already receiving calls from people who will not be able to get to work by public transport in future, and a day out in London will no longer be practical, since the first train will arrive just before 11am and one will have to leave by 3.20pm to catch the last bus home.

"We urge First Wessex and Dorset Council to work on a solution and - even at this late stage - reinstate these vital services"

A spokesman for First said: “As many people living and working in Dorset will appreciate, much of our First Wessex bus operation reflects seasonal demand. Since the contribution from the local authority ceased some years ago we’re operating these services on a fully commercial basis and, despite our efforts, in all that time these services have not turned a profit.

"Similar to businesses in other sectors that are reliant on tourism to remain sustainable, for the winter period, when there are fewer people requiring transport, we adjust our services to match this reduced demand whilst also minimising our losses over that period.”

The changes will it take effect on Sunday, September 22.

The booklet showing the winter service can already be downloaded from firstgroup.com and should be available on buses and from tourist information centres soon.