A BUS service is “just the first stage” of better connections from West Oxfordshire to Oxford’s hospitals, according to a victorious councillor.

Witney Central councillor Andrew Coles has fought for more than a year to get the hourly bus service to the John Radcliffe hospital.

The S7 will run between Carterton and Headington, carrying passengers from Monday, July 28.

It follows a campaign launched in May last year by councillors and residents, who said it took up to two-and-a-half hours to get from Witney to the county’s main hospital.

The West Oxfordshire district councillor said: “There’s an awful lot of people who work at the John Radcliffe Hospital who live in West Oxfordshire so we’re very grateful the staff will be able to use the bus and alleviate congestion on the A40, which is a massive problem.

“It’s a very rural place so it will make things a lot easier for people to get to the hospital and Oxford Brookes University.

“The car park in the John Radclife is exceptionally limited so it will hopefully take a few spaces out, making it a win-win for all.”

He now wants to see connections to other hospitals.

He said:“This is the first stage of what I hope will be better connections to not just the John Radcliffe but other hospitals like the Nuffield Hospital and Churchill Hospital.”

Mr Coles, who is also a bus driver, worked with Witney South and Central county councillor Laura Price to lobby the county council and Stagecoach for the S7 service.

He said the lack of a direct link was regularly brought up when visiting residents in his ward.

Mr Coles said: “People always mentioned having to take two long bus journeys to the hospital. My nan was in hospital and when I made that journey it took two-and-a-half hours.

“Witney and Carterton are two big towns so why shouldn’t we have a direct bus service to the hospital, like places such as Abingdon have?

“When you’re visiting relatives, have a day appointment or working there, two-and-a-half hour is not a realistic amount of time to sit on a bus and get everything done.”

Stagecoach business development manager Karen Coventry said: “We are delighted to be launching a new link between Carterton, Witney and Headington.

“The timetable will operate hourly to begin with, in the hope that increased usage will lead to Stagecoach being able to expand the operating hours and frequency in the future.”

The service, which is not subsidised, will call at Carterton, Minster Lovell, Witney, Oxford and Headington between Monday and Friday.