Bus Eireann is to cut almost 100 rural bus routes, with Clonroche, Bunclody and Kildavin some of the main rural towns to be hit.

The three towns will have no direct service to the capital, according to the Irish Independent.

It says that Ballyporeen, Clogheen, Ardfinnan, Muine Bheag, Castlecomer, Crettyyard and Ballylinan Cross will also see services removed.

Kiltoom, Knockcroghery, Ballymurray, Roscommon and Castlerea would be left without a direct service to Westport under the changes, the paper says.

Billy Gray, ICSA Rural Development Chairman, said that proposed cuts to Bus Eireann routes represent a further attack on rural Ireland.

“These cuts will, yet again, disproportionately affect rural dwellers in many parts of Ireland, and on top of bank, post office and Garda station closures, constitute a further attack on rural Irish society,” the ICSA rural development chairman said.

The ICSA has called on Bus Éireann to immediately reverse the decision to cut these services and to open negotiations with the Government on ensuring the viability of such routes.

Bus Eireann Chief Executive Martin Nolan said that despite recording a surplus of €4m last year, it was losing “thousands” of euro a day on some commercial routes with low passenger numbers, the paper reports.

The bus company plans to remove two routes connecting Dublin with the south and south-east of the country from the end of next month.

Furthermore, a third route between Athlone and Westport is also under threat, this could result in less services to and from Knock Airport.

Under the changes 15 communities will be left with no direct services with many more communities experiencing cuts to their bus links, the paper states.

Mr Nolan said if the Government wanted smaller towns and villages on commercial routes to be serviced, it would have to provide a subsidy.

“We are reluctant to come out of anywhere … but the services cannot stay on the road if we do not make money,” he said to the paper.

“Bus Éireann is following the market, we will have a number of towns and villages affected. We have two options – close the route, or conduct surgery.

“When that is forced upon us, what happens to the towns which are left behind? If the market is favouring the bigger towns and cities, the bit in the middle is going to be expensive (to service). It’s a difficulty for a State company to come out of towns and villages, but it’s a question of survival,” he said to the Irish Independent.

Bus Éireann said that other services would be extended to meet some demand.

John Comer President of the ICMSA said rural people were shocked that services could be withdrawn without their consultation. He said hat the Government will not allow private companies cherry pick but it will only allow access to state companies that are absolutely viable.

“People in rural Ireland are asking themselves why they are paying taxes at all. This is a step too far without any proper consultation without stakeholders.”

He said it would have massive impact in how people go about their daily lives.