Funding has been agreed to save a threatened bus route between Melton, Oakham and Corby but it could cost the taxpayer more than five times as much to keep it going.
Centrebus told Rutland County Council in March that it would stop operating the Rutland Flyer (RF1) service from June 22 because it was no longer cost effective.
But councillors have agreed at a cabinet meeting to approve new expenditure of £220,000 to subsidise the service following a tender process where the only firm bid to take it over was made by Stagecoach Midlands.
The new contract would cost the council £270,840 a year compared to the current one of £50,392. There will be a delay in finalising the deal while officers explore further options for saving money on operating the route before Centrebus pulls out.
Councillor Nick Begy, the council’s portfolio holder for transport, said: “We recognise how important local transport services are for our residents and have committed to providing increased funding to continue running RF1.
“We also have a duty to manage our budget responsibly and ensure best possible value for public money, so as not to increase pressure on other local services.
“We have received a single bid to operate RF1 which is significantly greater than the amount of money currently set aside in our budget to run the service.
“We have approved potential expenditure to meet the increased costs but owe it to taxpayers to use the time available to rule out whether there is a more cost-effective way to deliver RF1, before finally awarding the contract.”
The RF1 currently operates hourly journeys between 7am and 7pm, six days a week, between Melton, Oakham, Uppingham and Corby, and is the most used bus service in Rutland.
Of the 127,200 passengers who travelled on it during the last year, only 47 per cent were people who used a free bus pass, which is a much lower proportion than most other services, a report to the cabinet revealed.
Centrebus also recently served notice to stop running key Melton town services 14 and 15.
Leicestershire County Council has since agreed to subsidise the routes but they will only now run hourly instead of half-hourly as they did before, for most of the day.
County Hall is currently reviewing the bus services it supports throughout Leicestershire but says it will not axe funding for any routes before June next year.