TWO ‘vital lifeline’ bus services will be axed in April, it has been revealed.

First Bus will be putting an end to the 575 service — a busy route that connects Bolton and Horwich — and the 571/572 Bolton to Great Lever circular.

The operator plans to withdraw the services from April 8.

Cllr David Chadwick, Bolton Council’s cabinet member for transport, said the decision was ‘beyond a joke’ and questioned whether the company was ‘posturing’ ahead of Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham’s plans to re-regulate the region’s bus network.

He said: “The withdrawal of the 575 is unbelievable. There are literally thousands of homes along that route, so it must be profitable.

“This is beyond a joke and I don’t know whether it is a bit of posturing from First ahead of the Bus Bill. Andy Burnham has said that he will sort this out, and maybe this is an opening salvo from First.

“It is used to get to Middlebrook, to Bolton town centre, and everywhere in between. It is a vital lifeline for residents. I can’t rationalise the decision to withdraw it.”

Although Arriva also runs a 575 service, Horwich mayor Steve Rock said the First route would be ‘a big loss’.

He added: “ We have a growing population here with all of the developments going on.

“This will be a disaster for Horwich, I am really shocked. These buses are essential lifelines for people and I hope there is a rethink.”

In an email sent to local politicians and regional transport bosses yesterday, First said that they had ‘identified services which not only are poorly used but also, at this current time, do not have the potential to grow’.

Harper Green councillor Sue Haworth said: “I am devastated about the planned withdrawal of the Great Lever 571 and 572 buses. This bus service has been hit and miss for months. No wonder there has been some decline in bus use if that is what First Bus are saying.

“Many residents of the Hayward Estate that runs from Anfield Road up to Morris Green board and alight at the nearest stops at Lever Edge Lane and are dependant upon these buses for work and education.

“There is a much smaller Cumfybus 570 hourly bus that is often full, finishes early evening and does not run on Sundays. The 570 bus does not seem to have the capacity presently to take all of the working people as it starts too late in the morning.

“Many residents is my ward will now have to walk all the way to either Derby Street or to Bradford Road for buses which is a long way.”

A First spokesman said: “We can confirm that some changes to services are proposed for introduction in April and where it is in the interests of customers and the public, we have provided advance notification of those plans to Transport for Greater Manchester.”

Horwich North East councillor Richard Silvester said: "I know that First Bus has had problems with a shortage of drivers, however as I understand it this has been caused by the company and changes implemented.

"I have seen a worse service throughout Bolton over the past year from First Bus and wonder what on earth has gone on to get to this.

"First Bus has cut services back and back. It is only to the detriment of the passenger in what should after all be a public transport system."