A BUS company has axed return fares because of rising fuel costs.

Thamesdown Transport has scraped the traditional return ticket in favour of a new Dayrider alternative.

It means anyone planning a return journey through two zones of the town will have to pay an extra 30p - an increase of 11 per cent.

The fare changes will come into force on Sunday and Thamesdown says it hopes the new fares will make travel simpler for customers.

But Swindon Council's shadow member for transport and environment, Derique Montaut (Lab, Central) says the company is attempting to put in a stealth tax' so that it doesn't have to raise fares.

He said: "This is deplorable. What the company needs to do is start focusing more on customers and getting people on their buses and less on their own income.

"The traditional return fare is offered all over the country, but now it is being axed in Swindon.

"I have the feeling that if Thamesdown continues to act in this fashion pressure groups are going to start popping up for the buses like they have on trains and planes.

"The thing is, though, if the company acted more responsibly it would not have to come to this."

However, Paul Jenkins, managing director for Thamesdown Transport, says it is using this increase instead of a general rise in fares.

"This is a restructuring of discounted fares," he said. "We would now hope to avoid more fare increases for the next 12 months.

"By simplifying the range of tickets we offer a slightly more straightforward approach."

Mr Jenkins says under the new system if passengers were travelling from Old Town to the Oasis it would cost £1.60 both ways rather than the current £2.70 return fare.

But instead of paying two fares bus users can now buy a Dayrider for £3.

He said the company hoped the new prices would make things easier for customers and for the company, which is suffering from higher fuel prices.

He added: "Like motorists generally we have been affected by rising fuel prices. So far this year, we have spent over £229,000 more than expected on fuel.

"We are asking customers to pay more to contribute to the rising prices of petrol.

"These rises should give us what we need for the foreseeable rises in fuel costs.

"At the moment 14 per cent of users use the return ticket and 29 per cent use the singles."

Thamesdown admitted last month that it has made £137,438 by adopting a policy not to give customers their change.

In an Advertiser poll, more than 90 per cent of Thamesdown Transport travellers said they should scrap the policy.