HUNDREDS of parish councils and other groups have protested about threats to "rural lifeline" bus services.

Commuters, shoppers and residents are angry at proposals to cut back the most heavily subsidised routes.

The Evening Press revealed last month that North Yorkshire County Council has launched a cost-cutting review of 89 bus services.

Now it has been revealed services under threat include some connecting York with Tadcaster, Selby with Doncaster, York with villages in East Yorkshire, and Selby with York.

County council transport chiefs say the council cannot afford to continue to subsidise the existing bus network, which costs the authority more than £4 million every year.

Although all buses are operated by commercial companies, many receive subsidies - some working out at more than £10 per passenger per journey - funded by the taxpayer.

Even though these routes are not economically viable, they have always been considered "socially necessary".

But in a letter to town and parish councils, public transport manager Mary Welch said: "The increased cost of providing services means that it is possible that the current network of services cannot be retained with the funds that are available."

The review includes routes with a subsidy greater than £5, as well as every single Sunday and evening service, and those that operate every two hours or less.

More than 350 local councils and other organisations across North Yorkshire have responded to the county's proposals in writing.

Among the latest objectors is the North Ryedale Public Transport Group, a working party launched by Pickering Town Council.

Group co-ordinator Judy Dixon said: "Some services are used by very few passengers, but to those people they are a lifeline. Surely it would be better to work on getting such buses better used than stopping them."

Buses linking Linton-on-Ouse, Newton-on-Ouse and York are among those under threat. Jareth Cartner said: "I have lived between both villages for more than 50 years and have no desire to move nearer to a town.

"I believe we are being victimised for choosing to live in the countryside."

County council officers were today preparing a set of proposals to go before councillors later this month. A final vote will be taken by the end of the month, and any changes will take effect in April.

Updated: 10:22 Tuesday, February 14, 2006