THE future of bus travel across the county is set for a radical shake-up as the council looks to slash its support for unprofitable routes.

Currently Wiltshire Council subsidises around half of bus routes — one of the highest rates among councils in the country.

Now it must cut its £5million budget, with six options being considered — including ending all subsidies.

Each council department is expected to save around ten per cent. The transport budget is £25million, but much of that is tied up in statutory responsibilities such as providing school buses.

The council is not legally required to provide bus subsidies and it has now launched a public consultation to find out the impact of discounting unprofitable routes.

Buses running after 7pm, some Sunday services and rural routes are under threat.

Cabinet member for transport Philip Whitehead said the views of the public would shape policy decisions and insisted he did not need to make instant savings, with next year’s budget already set.

Details of which routes would cease will not likely come until summer 2017, after the election.

Labour councillor John Walsh said the cuts were driven by the government and any changes would impact the most vulnerable in society.

He said: “The cuts will hit the younger and older members of our community who are least able to afford cars or may not be medically fit to drive. The business community will also be hit if evening buses are withdrawn to destinations such as Tidworth. A great way to welcome back the 4,000 troops and their families who will be joining us as these cuts take effect."

Cllr Whitehead refused to guarantee villages that get only get one service a day will be protected, saying many villages in Wiltshire are not on a bus route. Yet he talked about the possibility of community-run transport replacing buses in some rural areas.

He also declined to reveal exactly how much he needs to save.

“We know how important bus services are for rural communities - especially to help people maintain their independence, however due to the pressures on local authority spending we under severe pressure to reduce the amount of budget that we spend on subsidising public transport at the level we currently do," he said.

“We are committed to minimising any impact changes might have, especially on vulnerable people including those who are elderly, disabled and young. We really do want to hear from people who could be affected by any changes to the current services, and we will be doing everything we can to act on those comments.”

The consultation starts on Monday and can be found here until April 4. Paper copies can be picked up in council offices, libraries, on buses operating contracted services, or people can call 0300 456 0100 to have one posted to them.