A "LIFELINE" free service for Asda shoppers is being axed in six weeks' time.

The 33-seater bus, which takes customers to the Penryn store from Falmouth every week day, is ending due to a "lack of demand".

Robin Fleet, office manager of Bodmin-based Group Travel, which runs the service, told the Packet: "The customers are going to really miss the social side of it, the chance to see their friends, as well as a free service to do their shopping."

One service that Asda are considering retaining is the Thursday night visit to Tremough campus to pick up university students. The fate of that bus run has not yet been decided.

Once the bus has dropped off Falmouth residents each day, it also collects customers from surrounding towns, but that service is also going to be shelved.

The service will be ended on July 2.

Mr Fleet added: "Some people who don't get a service bus won't be able to go to Asda at all. There's not much profit for us as a company in running it, but we like to do it because it provides a lifeline for customers and keeps our drivers busy during the day."

He added that although Asda are citing a lack of demand, on average the bus carries around 20 customers a day and together with their shopping, the bus is usually very full.

On Monday the bus route includes Melvill Road and on the ensuing days it goes via Prislow Fields and Mongleath Avenue (Tuesday), Manor Crescent (Wednesday), Prislow Fields and Budock Water (Thursday) and Trevelgos Road on Fridays.

The out of town service picks up shoppers from Redruth, Camborne, Helston, Lanner and Frogpool through the week.

The Packet met shoppers from Tuesday's bus service, which arrived at the store just after 10am with 18 passengers on board.

Almost all of them stopped to comment on how saddened and disappointed they were at hearing the news.

One customer said Asda was "being silly" because it would mean a loss of business, while another cited the convenience of walking from the bus to the shop.

Yvonne Renowden, aged 75, was on the bus with her children Derek Jackett and Liz Renowden. They live together at The Beacon, Falmouth.

She said: "If we didn't go to Asda we wouldn't be able to get cheaper stuff. I've only got a pension. It's also the atmosphere on the bus as well - and the regularity of it."

Another woman said that it was a blow to community life, which is already breaking up.

Whilst the Packet spoke to concerned shoppers, the driver of Group Travel bus came over to explain that she had collected more than 120 signatures for a petition to save the service, which she had started only late last week.

Of those signatures, more than 80 were over the age of 65 and only 12 had an alternative direct public transport to the store.

Asda responded: "Regular monitoring over the past few months has shown consistent low use of this service, which is why we have made the decision to cancel it with effect from July 9. 

"We appreciate this will be disappointing to the small number of users."