Labour party politicians have criticised the government following claims that almost half of bus routes in the East of England have disappeared since 2010.

Labour claims that its analysis of figures published by the government shows that there were 2,924 bus services running in the East of England in 2010, but that that number had fallen to 1,597 by earlier this year - a cut of 1,327 services, or 45 per cent.

Figures for England as a whole tell a similar story, with a total of 17,394 services in 2010/11 cut to just 8,781 by 2022/23.

However, a Department for Transport spokesperson said it is "misleading to equate these figures directly with changes in the number of bus routes", and added that the government "has invested £3.5bn since 2020 to back our buses".

"Our recent £500m boost is capping fares until the end of November 2024 and protecting routes into 2025, helping people save money on travel and improving transport connections to grow the economy.”

In May, the government announced an additional £300m funding for bus services until 2025 but Louise Haigh, a Labour MP, claims that this is "a significant cut", 23 per cent below the amount offered by "previous rounds of recovery funding and far short of what the operators have said is needed simply to maintain services".

Labour politicians in North Hertfordshire and Stevenage are also critical of the government on buses.

Cllr Elizabeth Dennis, North Herts Labour & Co-operative leader, said: “The government may be trumpeting its investment in buses, but for the whole of Hertfordshire only £29.7m has been awarded.

READ MORE: Changes coming to Stevenage and North Herts bus services next month

"This is to be paid over three years. We all know how badly we need a local transport network designed around the needs of our communities, which puts passengers first.

"Instead of working with councils to create joined up networks which cross county lines, something people in Stotfold wanting to shop in Hitchin and Letchworth badly need, this tokenistic 'investment' will fund a bus lane in Hitchin which will narrow an already congested road and is being imposed without consultation with local people or representatives."

Cllr Alistair Willoughby, chair of the North East Hertfordshire Labour party, added: "Transport is an essential public service which people rely on to get to work, see loved ones, and carry out essential tasks.

"If we are to tackle the climate emergency, get people out of cars, and truly level up our communities the piecemeal handouts must stop and a well-funded strategic approach to transport be taken.”

Kevin Bonavia, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, said: "Local bus services across Stevenage and Hertfordshire are in an appalling state after 13 years of Conservative government neglect.

"And they are set to get even worse - Arriva are planning even more cuts next month that will reduce services through Bedwell and Bragbury End.

READ MORE: Hertfordshire records ninth fewest drunk arrests in 2022

"We badly need a Labour government that will give councils the necessary  powers to provide the bus services we need."

If Labour win the next general election, they are promising to implement a bus reform plan that would increase local control of services, reduce the legal hurdles to taking over franchises, and a lift a ban on municipal bus ownership that was introduced in 2017.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage recently moved an amendment on the latter issue in the House of Lords.

She was seeking to add a clause lifting the ban into the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill, but it was defeated by 216 votes to 195 after Conservative peers voted it down.

Responding to Labour criticism for Sky News, the transport minister Richard Holden said: "This is just another cynical attempt by Labour to distract the British people from their appalling record on public transport.

"In Labour-run London, Sadiq Khan has increased bus fares by almost 6% and under the last Labour government bus fares rose more quickly than under the Conservatives, increasing costs for hardworking families.

"While Labour's fare hikes are discouraging bus use, the Conservatives are backing bus users by capping fares at £2 on over 5,000 bus routes and delivering record investment into our bus sector, keeping prices down as we halve inflation and grow the economy."

David Martin, the secretary of Stevenage Bus Users Group (BUGS), told the Comet: "Counting the number of registered bus routes is an unrealistic measurement of the decline of services. 

"Earlier this year, analysis by the BBC showed Hertfordshire had lost 56.5 per cent of bus milage in the five years to March 2022.

"That data of course includes the reduction of services due to the impact of Covid-19, but it only accounts for fixed routes and doesn't consider on-demand services such as HertsLynx.

"Outside, in our real world in Stevenage and North Herts, certainly there are some services which have been lost entirely, while others have seen reduced frequencies.

"However, since Intalink's Bus Passenger Charter published last year, the situation appears to be stabilised, with new routes and services added and more in the pipeline.

"Politicians will like to accuse each others parties and past administrations, or make statements about various financial support packages for the industry, but they would do better to listen to bus drivers, passengers and residents and assist delivery of sustainable solutions to restore the fragile public confidence in local and regional bus networks."

Bim Afolami and Sir Oliver Heald were contacted for comment on this article.