A community bus service which links isolated communities with Torquay town centre has relaunched after being suspended during the coronavirus crisis.

The number 61 service which links Livermead, St Lukes and the town centre was saved by its passengers who became subscribers in a scheme believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

The round-robin service ran six times a day and was popular with locals who nicknamed it the mobile community centre, after making new friends on the half-hour journey into or out of town.

Sadly, the service which relaunched last November had to be halted at the beginning of lockdown and was only able to restart again last week, subject to a passenger limit of six, all wearing facemasks.

Initially, the scheduled service - which is paid for by weekly subscriptions of between £3 and £6.50 - will run for the month of August to gauge demand and viability. But already it is proving a hit with some regulars.

Joan Murison, of St Lukes Road, said: “I am delighted it is running again. It is lovely to see everyone. Welcome back.”

Both Joan and fellow passenger, Stuart Wilson, also from St Lukes, are hopeful more people use it to ensure it continues after the trial period.

“It is so important,“ said Stuart, who is in his 80s. “There are people on that bus who I only ever see when they are travelling into town, and I have missed their company in the last few months.

“This is a critical time, and we must not let this beat us, we all need to come together to support this excellent community-led service, or it will be too late and we will lose it.”

Tracey Cabache, Torbay Community Development Trust’s community development manager, said: “These have been a difficult few months and we are very aware that now some of the restrictions are lifting, people want to get out and about again.

“Obviously with fewer numbers able to travel, maintaining the service is trickier but we are hopeful the subscribers will stick with us and they, along with others, will continue to support this important community service.”