ALL SUBSIDISED bus routes in the county are set to lose their funding from Oxfordshire County Council under proposals approved today.

Transport bosses decided to end all bus subsidies in the county and save £3.7m.

The subsidies are paid to bus companies and community groups so they can run 118 bus routes, mainly in rural areas, that would otherwise not be commercially viable.

But senior councillors have agreed to stop this as part of cost-cutting measures.

It is part of wider cuts of almost £290m agreed by the local authority since 2010 – due to reductions in its Government funding – and it could be forced to find £50m more this winter.

County transport boss David Nimmo Smith said the decision to end all bus route subsidies was "necessary", but one "we would all prefer not to have to make".

But at a meeting this afternoon residents and campaign groups pleaded with councillors to find the money elsewhere.

The Oxfordshire Transport and Access Group said the cuts would mean elderly and disabled people who caught buses at off-peak times could become "isolated".

Spokesman Barrie Finch told councillors: "People who struggle to travel will simply not be seen."

Bus Users Oxford chairman Hugh Jaeger added that removing funding for routes which had "a small subsidy per passenger" was a "false economy".

The changes agreed yesterday will now be put forward for final approval in the council's next budget, in February.

Senior councillors agreed that if cash from other savings could be found by then, an alternative option to cut £2.3m from subsidies would be considered instead.

This would mean funding for 36 off-peak services would be saved.

The changes next year would take effect from the spring, but Mr Nimmo Smith said residents "would not wake up one morning to find no buses running in Oxfordshire".

He added: "We continue to discuss with the bus companies the prospects of these services running on a commercial basis. These changes will not happen straight away.

"We are well aware of the value of the buses to people in Oxfordshire... but we are now in year six of county council cuts."