Calls have been made by a major transport union for "community support and political intervention" after Bus Éireann said it was to axe a number of routes including Cork-Dublin and Limerick-Dublin.
Bus Éireann's Expressway routes between Cork-Dublin and Limerick-Dublin are to cease, the firm said, and the Dublin to Galway route is also being axed.
The service between Dublin and Belfast is to be "suspended indefinitely", but the firm did not say it would "cease", unlike the categorical and unequivocal axing of the other three major routes.
The firm blamed the pandemic for the decision, saying it was in response to "significant medium-term challenges posed by Covid-19 in order to safeguard Expressway’s remaining 14 national routes and meet demand required on other city and commuter services".
No firm date has yet been set for the route stoppages, but Bus Éireann said: "changes are likely early next year when the current commercial bus operator emergency supports to the Cork, Limerick and Galway routes expire".
The emergency supports were announced in June, with temporary funding granted by then transport minister Shane Ross.
The funding was provided to "assist essential operators who are still under severe financial distress due to the fall in passenger numbers and associated drop in fare revenue as a result of Covid-19".
Bus Éireann chief executive Stephen Kent said the firm could increase public transport on Bus Éireann city services in Cork, Galway and Limerick, but that it was one or the other, and that the Expressway service would have to be sacrificed.
"This expansion will require more than 100 drivers which we can fully deliver by consolidating our Expressway network and taking a decision to withdraw from a small number of Expressway routes which would otherwise incur unsustainable losses and thereby avoid job losses in a very difficult trading environment," he said.
National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O'Leary called on government and opposition TDs to support the retention of Bus Éireann services between the major cities, saying the writing has been on the wall for years.
"The politicians, particularly those that represent the constituencies which will be impacted by this decision to cull routes, should ponder on the fact that Bus Éireann, and Bus Éireann alone, in the vast majority of areas across Ireland, was the only Bus service left standing during the Covid-19 induced lockdown, from March through to July.
"Without such services, large parts of Ireland would have been cut-off, essential workers would not have had public transport availability to attend vital workplaces, such as Hospitals, doctors' surgeries, pharmacies, and retail." The NBRU, along with representative colleagues, "will move might and main" to ensure that jobs are protected, he said.
"However, our ability to directly influence the retention of vital transport links into the towns and villages affected by this decision, will require community support and political intervention," Mr O'Leary added.
SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Murphy, has described the decision as “short-sighted, flawed and a kick in the teeth for workers and passengers”.
"Bus Eireann, unlike other operators, has continued to supply much-needed services during the current Covid-19 crisis and the NTA needs to recognise this and provide funding so that these services continue to provide safe and accessible transport for all its passengers."
He added: “Our members are calling for an immediate intervention by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Eamon Ryan, to reverse this decision.
"SIPTU representatives will lobby extensively on this matter and will seek the support of those dependent on these services and the public representatives within the regions and areas affected.”