TRANSPORT chiefs have warned that bus services in the region are facing a “cliff edge”, as funding uncertainty could force operators into cancelling some journeys in the coming months.

One councillor has called on the Government to step in and further subsidise the “broken” public transport model across the country, claiming fares are currently so expensive that low-paid workers were effectively spending a month’s wages on travel every year.

It follows a report from West Yorkshire Combined Authority officers, which said the Government’s bus recovery fund – which subsidises services suffering from post-Covid drops in passenger numbers – is set to end in March.

A meeting of the combined authority's transport committee heard how uncertainty over whether the funding would continue had made it difficult for bus companies to plan financially, and could jeopardise some services in the region.

Cllr Kim Groves, a member of the committee, said the combined authority did not support any fare increases to offset this.

She added: “Even before any increases, people find the fares are too high anyway. The Government has to step in because this is a broken model.

“If they want to help people and attract more people, it’s going to have to be a lower flat fare right across the country.

“People on low incomes, if you do the sums, only earn 11 months’ pay – because the other month is spent on transport.”

Financial support for bus operators, known as bus recovery funding, has been available during the past few months as services suffered hits to passenger numbers.

However, the extra cash is set to run out in the spring and, as the Omicron variant continues to spread, experts say it's unlikely bus passenger numbers in the region will fully recover soon.

Senior combined authority officer Dave Pearson told the meeting: “We are looking at a cliff edge when it comes to funding buses.

“Government hasn’t said it will continue funding beyond March and bus companies have no certainty, they can’t do any meaningful financial planning for the coming year.”

Committee chair and Bradford Council leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe said any local money that needed to be pumped into bus services to keep routes going and fares low was coming from council tax payers’ pockets.

“The Government has no plans for the future of how the buses are going to be subsidised and that is a real concern,” she added.