Transport chiefs have defended a 'ghost bus' brought in to serve Ealing Broadway which allows the Government to dodge consulting on a scrapped west London train service.
The once-weekly rail replacement bus provoked consternation this week following reports that it is not advertised anywhere at the station and regularly runs with no passengers.
The coach, funded by the Department for Transport, departs from Ealing Broadway at 9.45am on Tuesday mornings and travels on a 70 minute journey through Kensington Olympia, terminating at Wandsworth Road in South London before making a return trip.
Until December 14 last year, Crosscountry ran two trains a day between Birmingham and Brighton via Ealing Broadway and sections of track in west London. A number of passengers regularly used the trains, but the DfT decided the carriages were needed elswewhere to ease overcrowding.
Running the weekly bus allows ministers to maintain that a passenger service still operates on the route, thus avoiding the legal obligation to hold a public consultation on the suspension of the service.
But the scheme has come under fire amid claims the Government is wasting funds and exploiting a loophole.
John Beeston, honorary chair of Ealing Passenger Transport User Group, said: "This clearly is one of the DfT's best kept secrets and we're grateful to the media for drawing it to our attention.
"I am trying to arrange for a party of us to board the coach and ride the route from Ealing to Wandsworth Road next week. This gives us a good opportunity to see first hand what the route is like."
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "Consultation revealed a lack of demand on this line and for now a reduced replacement service will serve those passengers who still want to travel on this route.
"We are continuing to monitor this line and are currently looking at the best way of meeting passenger demand which may result in more regular local rail services."
The spokesman added that passengers have been using the replacement bus service.