BUSES which have up to just five passengers on average are set to be axed, saving Essex County Council nearly £2million.

It says it can’t justify the operating costs of those journeys which operate after 10pm Monday to Friday and after 11pm Saturdays and 7pm on Sundays.

Many Sunday services also look set to be reduced to running every two hours.

It currently costs the council £635,000 to contract out its Sunday services and around £1.2million for evening services.

If agreed, the changes could come into effect from March 29, 2020.

The proposals follow a consultation about bus journeys with parish councils, representatives of older persons groups, schools, health care providers, bus operators and it was available on the council’s website.

But Peter Kay, of Colchester bus users' group C-Bus, levied criticism at the plans and said the consultation was inadequate.

He added: "This 'review' of services also demonstrates once again how the council is incapable of managing its services to minimise costs and maximise benefits.

"In Colchester alone they are insisting on leaving in place some 20 hours of bus time per week that serve no purpose, either because there are no actual users or because they run within a few minutes of other buses on the same road - whilst at the same time cutting some well-used journeys purely to fit the new policy.

"The most extraordinary new bright idea is to alter all the more successful 'town' Sunday services, that currently run every 30 or 60 mins, to every 120 mins only, irrespective of how many users there are per bus or how small the subsidy level is."

A council spokesman explained: “The only journeys that are being withdrawn are those carrying fewer than six people so this is a prudent shaping of the network around use, not a cost cutting exercise.”

However, county councillor Ray Gooding added: “ECC spends £9million a year subsidising just 15 per cent of the Essex bus network.

"These are services that commercial operators will not run as they are not financially viable.

"We at the council want to ensure that we deliver the best services at the best value to the taxpayer.

“We recently held a consultation on our evening and Sunday services policy which would only support services after 10pm in the week, 11pm on Saturdays or after 7pm on a Sunday where there is an average of six or more people travelling on them.

“This will have a very small impact on bus users across the county (impacting on just 0.07% of the total number of journeys across the county during the week and Saturday and 0.06% on Sundays).”

Details of the proposed changes can be found at https://essex-sic.dev1.webnetism.com/getting-around/bus/bus-service-changes.aspx.

The cabinet meeting takes place at County Hall at 10am on Tuesday.