Kate Freeman, of Etchilhampton, who helped set up the pioneering Wigglybus in the Pewsey Vale in 1999 and which is now called Connect2Wiltshire, thanked Hatts for its running of the service.

She said: “They rescued the Wigglybus when the operator pulled out just over a year after it started and they went on to run the flexible services for a further 14 years.

“Their drivers have been the mainstay of the village buses and we hope they will continue to offer their cheerful services for many years to come.

“It is extremely difficult for a small bus operator when they have not got the economies of scale of Stagecoach and First Group and if their coach operation is their mainstay it is being undermined by a lot of large bus operators who are now entering the coach market.”

Jasper Selwyn, chairman of Devizes Passengers, said Hatts did not market some of its bus services well enough, citing its fast service from Devizes to Salisbury, known as A360 and X360, which was withdrawn just as the tourist season was about to begin.

Of the Connect2Wiltshire and Devizes town bus contracts he added: “If they were taken over by national companies it would be easier to establish better connections with other routes run by those companies and there would be more resources available to market them.”