By politics.co.uk staff
Withdrawing national funding from England's bus operators could set local public transport back by decades, MPs have been warned.
A letter from local authorities, bus operators, transport campaigners and unions warns of the consequences if the bus service operators' grant (BSOG) is cut as part of the spending review.
The sector fears cuts to its limited central support, which it points out is far less than those received by the rail industry, could lead to a ten per cent overnight bus fare hike, job cuts in the industry of ten per cent and knock-on costs for local authorities.
"Scrapping BSOG could do for Britain's buses today what Beeching did for the UK rail network in the 1960s," the Campaign for Better Transport's executive director Stephen Joseph said.
"In many areas, it could tip buses into a spiral of decline with fares rises, falling patronage and service cuts, all with impacts on some of the poorest in society.
"It would trap people into dependence on cars and add to local traffic problems. Pensioners could find themselves with free bus passes but no buses on which to use them."
The government has already acknowledged the importance of the grant. Transport minister Norman Baker told the Commons it helps "ensure that the bus network remains as broad as possible".
He has subsequently admitted the bus grant will be considered as part of the spending review, however.