The region’s bus network is in a state of “near collapse”, a councillor has warned.

Scores of subsidised services are being axed amid a funding crisis and chronic driver shortage.

Cllr Mark Bradshaw says he has “never seen anything on this scale” in his seventeen years on Bristol City Council.

He was speaking at a West of England Combined Authority audit committee where members aired serious concerns about routes that would be lost from April, many in poorer areas.

Cllr Bradshaw (Labour, Bedminster) told the meeting: “There is a real crisis in passenger transport in our region. There seems to be a near collapse in the bus network."

“I have never seen anything on this scale.”

WECA interim director of infrastructure Alistair Kirk said half-a-billion pounds secured by the combined authority from the Government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) would boost services.

He told the meeting: “Of the £540million in the CRSTS, £500million is going into improving the bus network and extending bus routes and connectivity across our strategic corridors, so for us, the CRSTS is an enabler for long-term improvements of the bus network.”

Mr Kirk said WECA's recently announced WESTlink, where passengers can hail a minibus via an Uber-style app, was an “innovative solution” – although not every area suffering bus cuts would be covered by the service when it launches in April.

Cllr Bradshaw replied: “The risk is that people with choice will move back to the car and it will be very difficult to get them back onto public transport again.

We might be getting all this money in, but unless we win the battle of hearts, minds and trust to get this patronage back, it’s pretty pointless.”

Public transport passenger champion Dave Redgewell told the meeting on Thursday, March 2nd, that thousands of residents would be left without buses from April.

He said: “For miles and miles in South Bristol there will be no bus services. This idea that it’s a 15-minute walk to a bus stop, I’m sorry, it’s not. Some of those gaps are two to three miles. East Bristol has no service at all on the whole corridor for some of the poorest citizens, which WECA should be worried about."

“No bus service in St Pauls and St Werburghs through to Easton and Stapleton, no bus service in Lawrence Hill, parts of bus services cut in Southmead and across north Bristol, and the rural areas are really devastated.

In South Gloucestershire there’s an election coming but dogs are not just for Christmas and buses are not just for elections.

But what we have is a policy of extending services for two months.

That’s not a policy. We don’t have a two-month extension policy and then just throw everyone under the bus, but that is what we are doing.”

He said the transport authority was not functioning effectively and also blamed WECA's three unitary authorities – Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset – for refusing to increase their transport levy, which pays for supported buses on unprofitable routes.

Committee chairman Bristol Cllr Geoff Gollop (Conservative, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) said cross-party councillors were concerned about the withdrawal of support for bus services from some of the region’s most deprived areas.

He said the risks associated with the WESTlink ‘demand responsive transport’ had not been fully appreciated and there was no knowledge of what the demand would be or passengers’ expectations.

“The related risks seem massive and the urge to solve this crisis appears to have led to decisions which may have significant unmeasured risk to the authority,” Cllr Gollop said.

“We are not convinced that officers are fully aware of the magnitude of this risk and that WECA committee may not have been informed of this when the decision was taken.”

Last month Labour metro mayor Dan Norris, who heads transport authority Weca, unveiled a £7million package from the £105million Bus Service Improvement Programme (BSIP) to increase buses on five key routes, promising “London-style frequency” during peak times and buses every 15 minutes on mainline services that connect passengers to WESTlink.

First Bus has previously said it would “significantly increase” the number of services from April.