Two “lifeline” bus routes could see fares rise, concessions lost and an inferior service when funding is cut, it has been claimed.

Last week, Essex County Council agreed to stop a £586,000 subsidy to Transport for London (TfL) for the 167 and 20 routes connecting Debden, Loughton and Buckhurst Hill to areas such as Walthamstow and Ilford.

Although transport councillor Roger Hirst said the subsidy removal in April next year is very unlikely to see the routes stop altogether, there are fears – particularly from schools – of a reduced TfL service or an inferior commercial replacement.

Chris Seward is the head teacher of Davenant Foundation School in Loughton, which has large numbers of pupils who rely on the 167 and 20 to get to-and-from school.

He said: “I think the commercial operators will find it quite difficult to match the service of Transport for London, notwithstanding how unreliable buses can be.

“You hear about bus services sometimes at other schools, they are not as reliable as a main, publicly funded bus service.”

He added: “It is really important that the schools and the young people themselves are consulted about the plans.

“There is more than one school that has got a significant number of students who use the bus routes – and it not only affects any future students coming to our schools but it will affect a large number of students currently at the schools.”

Despite councillor Hirst’s promise that a full consultation will take place before any changes, the council’s ability to maintain aspects of the services – such as routes, smart tickets and the vehicles themselves – will be limited by financial constraints.

This week it was also announced that a central government grant to TfL will be cut completely, currently worth £591m a year.

This could pose a further risk to the services, said Green councillor Steven Neville.

He praised councillor Chris Pond of the Loughton Residents’ Association for resisting the county council cuts, but said promises of consultation will not ensure concessions and fare prices are kept.

Cllr. Neville said: “In the short term, I think it is ok… but I think it is something that needs to be watched and closely monitored.

“With cuts to the Transport for London subsidy, there will be a cost.

“There will be a price to be paid, and let us hope there is no price to be paid with our bus services.”