TWO new bus routes face an uncertain future due to competition between Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach.

The head of Oxford Bus Company (OBC) said its newly extended 500 service from Oxford to Woodstock now appears unsustainable after Stagecoach launched a similar service just one month later.

Stagecoach’s managing director agreed the number of buses running to Woodstock is unworkable in the long term, and the two companies will come together to discuss potential solutions.

OBC extended its 500 service to run from Oxford train station to Woodstock last December.

It formerly ran from Oxford train station to Oxford Parkway station.

Then, a month later, Stagecoach introduced its Gold 7 service, which runs from Oxford city centre to Woodstock, stopping at Oxford Parkway.

OBC managing director Phil Southall said: "We were very surprised to see Stagecoach introduce its new service so soon after we began our extended service 500 between Oxford Parkway and Woodstock in December.

"We had been advised by several important stakeholders in the area that this link had been high on their on their wish list ever since the new rail station at Oxford Parkway opened back in October 2015, but no operator had stepped forward to begin a service.

"Once the railway line from Oxford Parkway to Oxford station opened in December, we knew the demand profile for the park and ride element of our 500 service would change and so we decided to give this new link a try in the hope that, over time, it would prove commercially viable.

"Unfortunately the response from Stagecoach has made this unlikely and the current situation doesn't appear to be sustainable in the long term.

"We have meetings planned with Oxfordshire County Council and Stagecoach in the coming weeks to see if a way forward can be found to preserve this new link and ensure it is operated in a more efficient way."

The Oxford Mail counted the number of passengers on two buses leaving Oxford Parkway on Wednesday, February 1.

On OBC’s 65-seat 500 service leaving Oxford Parkway at 8.53am there were three passengers downstairs.

Upstairs was mostly empty.

On Stagecoach’s 76-seat Gold 7 service leaving Oxford Parkway at 9.13am there were five passengers on board.

Stagecoach in Oxfordshire managing director Martin Sutton said: "We have been planning a far reaching review of our Stagecoach Gold services for some while to provide new links, including improved links to Headington and hospitals.

"A route between Oxford Parkway with Woodstock was one of these proposed links.

"The new service 7 between Woodstock, Oxford Parkway and Oxford is an interim measure and although the service has only been running for five weeks we are very pleased with the support and feedback from passengers so far.

“We are aware that the number of buses to Woodstock at present is not sustainable and we welcome the opportunity for discussions with Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford Bus Company."

Chairman of Bus Users Oxford Hugh Jaeger said: “What it’s about is competition between the two operators and I would like to see the two companies react sensibly to each other.

"With current passenger numbers they can't both be making a profit.

“I would like to see one of them, and I don’t care which, change their route.