A long sought after bus service stopping through west Dorset villages will be trialled next month. 

First Wessex has announced network changes for its services in Dorset.

The new services, which are part of a twice-yearly network review, are due to launch on Sunday, May 12.

Following requests from the community, there will be a trial route on the X51 diverting via Martinstown and Winterbourne Steepleton, running until September.

Passenger numbers will be reviewed throughout to assess the route’s long-term viability.

The trial service will run back through the Winterbourne Valley so as to serve Winterbourne Steepleton, North & South Rew, Martinstown and Mallards Green. 

It comes 10 years after First Bus decided in 2014 that it was taking too long to divert from the main road through the villages between Weymouth, Dorchester and Bridport.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Buses in west Dorset

Campaigner Les Scarth, who lives in Martinstown, had called on local businesses and other organisations to help reinstate the service by writing to First Bus encouraging it to back the summer diversions to see if the route is viable.

He highlighted how a better service would help reduce traffic congestion, support shopping and socialising and improve access for medical appointments.

READ MORE: Campaign for bus in Winterbourne Steepleton and Martinstown

Dorchester town councillors Susie Hosford and Molly Rennie have spoken out in support of this service, saying it would provide a "vital" transport link for the community and help key workers get to work in the village care homes. 

READ MORE: Calls for Dorchester-Bridport bus to stop in villages

Cllr Hosford said: "We are all absolutely delighted that the X51 will be serving the villages of Martinstown, Steepleton and Winterbourne Abbas again and would like to thank Les Scarth for his tireless campaign to make this happen.  

"Before it was withdrawn it provided a vital link for some of the most vulnerable residents in these communities to access services in Dorchester and Bridport and it also provided transport to enable vital staff to get to work in care homes in the valley.  

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Martinstown

"The reinstated service will also ease pressure on traffic and parking in Dorchester by providing a greener, more sustainable route into the county town."

Cllr Rennie added: "The village of Martinstown has a large community as has the length of the valley which  has homes and places of work along the route and many people, I am sure, would use the bus to travel in both directions for work,  education and leisure activities.

"This whole community is now cut off from public transport yet still need to come into the towns nearest to them for many services and once having given up a car have no means of access."