CAMPAIGNERS want Thamesdown Transport to use thousands of pounds in overpaid bus fares to help reverse controversial changes to its network.

The company has scrapped the service 21, which operates in Penhill and Pinehurst, and service 23, through Coleview.

The service 18, which ran between Fleming Way and the hospital via Park South, was also altered to cover Park South only.

Thamesdown said the changes, which came into force on January 1, were needed because the services were not commercially viable. But some commentators said the move restricted access to vital services, particularly for pensioners.

Now figures, obtained by the Adver under the Freedom of Information Act, show that Thamesdown received £78,955 in overpayments during 2011 under its exact fare policy, which means bus drivers cannot give change.

The extra cash – the highest since the policy came into force in 2005 – is swept into the company’s overall revenue pot and helps to meet operating costs, but campaigners say it should help to reinstate the affected services.

Jim Hayes, 75, of Penhill, who has been forced to use taxis after the service 21 was axed, said he would take up the issue with his ward councillors.

The grandfather-of-eight, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said: “My first thought on that is the fact that people should be able to reclaim extra money they’re paying for their fare.

“But if they aren’t handing the extra money back then that money should be used surely to subsidise the services they’re cutting.”

Coun Andy Harrison (Lib Dem, Penhill), who is involved in a petition against the removal of the service 21, said he agreed the cash should be used to reinstate the route.

“People are forced by their monopoly on the bus service to have to pay extra and the result of that is they’ve got extra money in their pot. And that’s not right, particularly when people are getting their bus services cut,” he said.

Richard Hurley (Con, Covingham and Nythe), who is against the ending of the service 23, agreed.

“It’s money they’ve got by default and I think if the public knew how much they had already received through the system they would be quite surprised, so I think perhaps it should go towards helping those services,” he said.

Martin Wicks, the chairman of the Parks and East Walcot Forum, who is against the service 18 changes, said: “It’s free money from the service users, so why not use that money for the benefit of service users by supplementing those services which they say don’t earn enough money?”