New research claims that subsidised bus services in 11 rural councils face funding cuts totalling £27m over the next two years.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) highlighted cuts of £3.7m in Oxfordshire, prime minister David Cameron's local council, and £4.8 million in Derbyshire, the local council of transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Other councils planning cuts in 2016-17 or 2017-18 are Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Somerset, Dorset, West Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, North Yorkshire and Lancashire, the research says.
CBT says that the new cuts represent a ‘Beeching of the Buses’ and will leave many rural communities with little or no bus service.
Dr Beeching (pictured) 2?: This time it's buses...
It has created an interactive map showing cuts to subsidised bus services by English and Welsh councils since 2010. The Map is based on its Buses in Crisis report, published last November, which revealed cuts of £78m since 2010 .
Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner at CBT, said: ‘It is a bitter irony that many of the bus services being cut today are historic services that replaced the thousands of rail services that were cut by Dr Beeching, meaning more and more areas now have no public transport at all.
'Following six years of huge reductions in grants from central government, local authorities are being forced into making ever deeper cuts to bus funding and there is real public outrage about the large number of bus services under threat.
'Local buses provide a vital role to the community and for some people, especially in rural areas, buses are their only means of getting to work or school, to visit friends or to access shops and public amenities.’
He added: ‘With the Government’s promised Buses Bill on the horizon ministers must explain exactly how this bill will help people and communities, particularly in rural and isolated areas, stay connected.'
Daniel Zeichner MP, Labour’s shadow transport minister, said: ‘This timely research underlines just how desperate the situation for bus passengers really is. David Cameron promised to keep the free bus pass but he cut the buses instead. Labour would make sure that local communities have the power to make bus operators provide the services local people need.’
Transport minister Andrew Jones said: 'I recognise that buses provide a vital service in local communities, and particularly in more remote areas.
'Decisions on funding for local bus services are a matter for local authorities, but the Government protected around £250m of funding for bus services in England, provided through the Bus Service Operators Grant, as part of last year’s spending review. This has preserved millions of bus journeys every year.
'In March last year, we committed £7.6m to support 37 local transport schemes in rural, isolated areas through the Total Transport Pilot Fund. More than 300 local charities and community groups across England will also benefit from new minibuses through the £25 million Community Transport Minibus Fund.
'We are also developing measures in the upcoming Buses Bill so local authorities can deliver improved bus services.'