THE future of Bolton's free hop on, hop off bus which takes market shoppers to the interchange hangs in the balance.

The metroshuttle service was introduced in 2008 to pick people to travel between town centre car parks and take them to retail areas.

Bolton is the only authority outside Manchester City Centre to operate such a service, which costs the council more than £90,000.

Now its future is under the spotlight after the council admitted it could not continue to fund the service indefinitely.

The service currently operates on a 15-minute frequency serving a circulatory route of the town centre. Shoppers can hop on and off the bus and travel around the town centre to key shopping locations.

The route offers those shopping at Bolton Market a frequent free shuttle service to Bolton Interchange.

The service calls at Bath Street and provides a direct link to the Shop Mobility Scheme which was relocated to Topp Way Car Park in 2010. The service operates Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm.

It was operated by Vision bus costing £120,000, with the Bolton Council meeting 75 per cent of the cost.

The current agreement with Transport for Greater Manchester will end in December.

A report put forward to council said the local authority had some "very difficult decisions to be made in terms of whether to continue funding the service, however, the council had not got the financial resources to continue to fund the Metroshuttle indefinitely."

The report added:" It was also noted that the majority of town/cities in GM did not fund a free town centre bus service and there was no statutory requirement to do so."

Options discussed to save the service included introducing a charge to ending it until the multi-million town centre masterplans full developed.

Town hall chiefs have decided to continue the service for six months to explore where organisations and businesses are able to provide any financial assistance and generate reveune from advertising.

The report added the council would still have to pay a contribution,

Cllr Martyn Cox stressed that no decision had been made about the service and a report would be drawn up, including looking at how well used it was.