A VITAL bus route has been saved from extinction after a new operator agreed to step into the gap.

The H1 service between Loughton and Harlow is due to wind up on December 18 leaving students of Harlow College and users of St Margaret's Hospital stranded.

But TWH Bus and Coach services has now agreed to run its 55 bus along the same route from Monday to Friday starting from December 21.

Owner Chris Hunn said: “We are starting from when the H1 lets off. We are opting for more or less the same route. We are also going to stop at Piercing Hill and Theydon Bois.”

Imperial Bus Company Ltd, which operated the H1 had come in for extensive criticism about the reliability of its service with many of its vehicles neglecting to even turn up.

Mr Hunn said he hoped he would offer a better service adding: “We are hoping to be used more, and be more reliable. We're a commercial service so if people don't use us they will lose us. Hopefully some of the customers can let us work for them.”

Essex County Council is currently inviting tenders for a service to operate from Loughton to Harlow on Saturday.

Loughton county councillor Chris Pond said: “They have had a lot of interest, and are also concerned about getting a later Harlow to Loughton bus arranged.

“I want to pay tribute to John Pope of ECC who has done everything to make sure users are not disadvantaged by this commercial decision of Imperial Buses, and I too have been encouraging him as much as I can.”