BUSES serving a South Oxfordshire town could be scrapped if drivers keep blocking the route with badly-parked cars.

Incessant illegal parking in Watlington is threatening the rural market town's main bus service, Thames Travel's T1, which keeps getting stuck in the narrow High Street.

On Monday the 6am service was cancelled and the police called out after the T1 became trapped behind parked vehicles, and later buses had to terminate early to avoid the blockage.

Thames Travel's managing director Phil Southall said parking in the road is a 'reoccurring issue', which has made it 'increasingly difficult' to run a reliable service.

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He said: "If motorists persist in parking in such a way that means our buses are unable to use the road, the future of the bus service to and from Watlington could be threatened.

"We’d urge any motorists who park on High Street Watlington to please do so with care, and ensure enough room is left for larger vehicles to fit through.

"Many people both in Watlington and the neighbouring communities rely on our service, and the road is also a key route for emergency vehicles."

The T1 runs from Oxford to Watlington and back, via Cowley, Garsington and Chalgrove.

Mr Southall apologised for the inconvenience on Monday but said there was 'no choice' but to cancel.

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There are some parking bays along High Street, and a free public car park nearby, but some drivers still park on double yellow lines.

Matt Reid, chairman of Watlington Parish Council, described the bus service as 'absolutely essential'.

He said: "We have a persistent issue with selfish parking, where people stop to go into the Co-Op and block the road.

"There's a pinch-point in the High Street and it is frequently blocked - it's an issue that's been going on forever.

"Everyone here at some stage has heard the bus beeping its horn to get the attention of someone in the Co-Op. Somebody even suggested not serving them if they had parked on the lines.

"I've seen it first-hand, it's absolutely awful behaviour, and it's a problem that will get worse over time as they are about to build more houses here."

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He revealed Thames Travel threatened to withdraw the T1 after buses were forced to mount the pavement in High Street, to avoid hitting cars parked in bays outside Watlington Library.

He said this saw them clip the corner of a house so, last year, the parish council successfully worked with Oxfordshire County Council to move the parking bays.

He added: "We've had our ups and downs in terms of provision of the service, and the actual timetable has been in a state of flux, but we are lucky to still have the service."

Though police officers occasionally patrol the area and the council has highlighted the issue via Facebook, he said the key was changing people's attitudes.

Mr Reid said: "People who chose to park there have the luxury of a car, and the people they would be inconveniencing by having the service withdrawn don't have that luxury - they rely on the bus to get to work and college.

"One selfish act could be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

One person has suggested putting a clock on the face of Watlington Town Hall, specifically counting down when the next bus would be passing.

Mr Reid said this would be difficult, however, as the hall is a listed building.

He said further restricting the parking or bringing in a complete car ban would be detrimental for the High Street businesses, which need road access to gain passing trade and to allow for deliveries.

He added: "There are a number of solutions, but will they actually stop people being selfish?"