A POLICE bike squad is set to be axed – just 18 months after it was launched.

The trail-blazing team will go as part of Essex Police’s most radical shake-up in decades – the force needs to make £41million of savings within the next four years.

Roger Watson, vice chairman of Essex Police Federation, said it was a big loss.

He added: “They can get through Southend quite quickly when traffic is snarled up, and they can get to scenes quicker. But it’s going to be subject to the cuts.”

However, the bikes will still be kept by the force and the officers will still be able to use them when necessary.

The team will also re-form for major events, such as the 2012 Olympic mountain-biking event at Hadleigh Castle.

Supt Jon Dodman, of the south eastern division, said: “Officers deployed on cycles remain a tactical option, as they always have been.

“Indeed our Velo team will be involved in the 2012 Olympic cycling event.

“On a day-to-day basis, senior officers now need to decide the most practical and efficient use of its limited resources, including the deployment of officers in vehicles, on foot and on bicycles.”

Southend’s “advanced cycle team” was set up in February 2010. It made 177 arrests in its first year.

It also closed four cannabis factories, and made stop-checks which led to ten houses being searched for drugs.

The real benefit of the team was it could reach places quickly, without the worry of negotiating heavy traffic.

The team wore body cameras to record evidence vital to getting a prosecution in court.

Now the officers will be deployed to other frontline roles, either working as part of a shift, or on neighbourhood specialist teams.