BUS passengers in Wiltshire face cancelled services and inflation-busting fare rises if key bus grants are withdrawn.

Councils, bus operators, transport campaigners and unions have written to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to warn him of fare rises, service cuts and job losses if the Bus Service Operators Grant is scrapped.

The BSOG gives a rebate to bus operators for the fuel duty they pay in running local registered bus services, including many rural, school and socially important services.

According to the Department For Transport, operators registered in Swindon receive £880,350 a year, while those in Wiltshire get £668,380.

Other operators serving the county, but based outside, would also suffer from any grant cuts.

Bus firms in Swindon say they are waiting with bated breath to find out if the axe will fall on the grant, and if it does, cuts in services and a rise in fares would be inevitable.

David Birch, the operations director at Thamesdown Transport in Swindon, said: “If it is reduced that would mean a loss of revenue coming into bus companies to support services, so something would have to give – either the number of services that can be supported or fares or some combination of the two.”

Shalto Thomas, the operations director for Stagecoach, which operates five routes in Swindon, said if the grant were scrapped, bus fares could go up by as much as 10 per cent.

“If it does happen, we will have to move quite swiftly,” he said.

Both pointed out that train companies and airlines do not pay any fuel duty.

Neil Scales, the chairman of the bus companies’ trade association, the Confederation Of Passenger Transport, said: “Outside London the bus is the main form of public transport, and is also relied upon by the most by low-income households.

“Yet, despite this, the level of Government support is a very small proportion of those the rail industry receives and even these relatively modest BSOG subsidies are now under threat.

“If we want to reduce carbon from transport, give jobless households the means to access work and ensure that our cities keep moving then we need to ensure bus networks are maintained – and that means buses should get their fair share of Government support.”

Letters have been sent to Swindon’s MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland and an Early Day Motion has been laid down in Parliament on the issue.