Swinging cuts to bus services are reaching "critical levels" according to a report by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) released yesterday.
Up to 47 per cent of all local authorities in England and Wales reduced their support for buses for 2013, while the 2014/15 financial year is likely to hit services hard, said CBT.
Three councils have stopped supporting vital services and others might follow, warned the Buses In Crisis report.
In the last year there have been cuts of £17 million in England's bus support budget. Plans for a further £48m to be shaved off the spending have already been announced.
Counties making year-on-year cuts of more than 10 per cent include Shropshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, Wiltshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire.
Funding for buses has been completely withdrawn in Southend, Darlington and Hartlepool.
The CBT's Martin Abrams predicted: "This is a watershed moment. If government doesn't take action to help support buses, we will see whole networks disappear.
"Politicians need to understand how important buses are. They may not be as politically sexy as big transport projects but they make a significant difference to the economy, the environment and to wider society. It would be a disaster if whole networks were allowed to disappear."
The CBT report recommends a new approach to funding, bringing in long-term investment and increasing patronage through fully funded concessionary travel for the young and old.
This would help prevent the dearth of "lifeline" bus services that provide services for elderly and young people and for those living in isolated areas. Bus companies are the first to cut these often-unprofitable routes to satisfy investor greed.
Labour's shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh has promised to introduce quality contracts - which ensure bus firms use their profits to subsidise less profitable routes - if Labour wins the next general election.
Quality contracts have proved successful in London and Europe according to Tyne and Wear transport executive Nexus, who are in consultation to introduce them into the region.
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