OXFORDSHIRE'S buses covered 696,000 more miles last year than the year before, new figures reveal.

However with England's bus mileage dwindling to its lowest level in more than three decades elsewhere, campaigners and council chiefs blame rising car use, congestion and cuts to transport funding for the millions of miles lost.

In Oxfordshire, buses clocked up 18.9 million miles in 2018-19, latest Department for Transport statistics show – up four per cent from the year before.

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The local authority subsidised only one per cent of these journeys last year, with the rest run by private companies.

Buses covered 1.18 billion miles across England last year – the smallest coverage nationwide since 1986-87.

Outside of London, nearly two million fewer journeys were made by bus in 2018-19 than in the previous 12 months.

Alongside shrinking services, fares continued to rise in real terms.

Prices were hiked up 3.3 per cent on average across England last year, higher than the 1.9 per cent Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation.

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Only 64 per cent of fare-paying passengers outside London say they are satisfied with the value for money of their journeys, according to a survey by watchdog Transport Focus.

People older than 65 and those with a disability are legally entitled to free bus passes for off-peak travel.

But with cash-strapped councils spending less and ditching discretionary items such as supported rural services, the Local Government Association warns that nearly half of the country's bus routes face the chop.

Calling local bus services a "lifeline for our most vulnerable residents", a spokesman for the association said more needs to be done to tackle the network's "spiralling decline".

"Councils also want to see a fully-funded concessionary bus fare scheme, which is putting nearly half of all bus routes at risk," he added.

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"It is vital the new government properly funds this scheme so councils can protect bus routes and reinvest in local networks."

Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said people in cut-off communities were unable to reach basic services.

"With local authorities unable to support the less profitable, but socially necessary routes, these have been the first victims of cutbacks leaving many communities – especially in more rural areas – without a usable bus network," she added.

"We hear from people every week who can no longer get to work or their GP practice, visit friends or even get out to the shops."

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The trade body representing bus and coach operators, the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said growing car ownership and congestion are the two issues driving the decline in towns and cities.

CPT policy manager Alison Edwards called on councils and the Government to work together to "put the bus first" in transport planning.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "This Government has committed to improving and expanding bus services – and this is exactly what we intend to do.

"We recently announced a £220 million package to transform services across the country to support Britain’s first all-electric bus town, better information for passengers, and contactless payment on every city bus, on top of the over £2 billion the public sector spends on bus services each year – making journeys greener, easier and more reliable."