Bus passengers given VIP ride in Waterlooville

(l-r) Rob Jones (driver), Sylvia Newman (passenger), Mark Barnett (driver), Lee Bridle (standards controller), Jack Hill (passenger) and Mark Hill (passenger). 'VIP Bus No 39. Passengers are welcomed aboard a specail VIP No39 bus at Waterlooville by drives dressed in dinner jackets.  ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13656-372)
(l-r) Rob Jones (driver), Sylvia Newman (passenger), Mark Barnett (driver), Lee Bridle (standards controller), Jack Hill (passenger) and Mark Hill (passenger). 'VIP Bus No 39. Passengers are welcomed aboard a specail VIP No39 bus at Waterlooville by drives dressed in dinner jackets. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13656-372)

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BUS passengers were given the red carpet treatment as they boarded a newly-improved service at the weekend.

Stagecoach pulled out the stops in Waterlooville precinct as drivers and staff wearing tuxedos welcomed people aboard the revamped 39 route.

The firm has spent £1.5m on a fleet of 11 new buses for the service, which runs from Havant to Wecock Farm.

A regular on the service Simon Lane, 39, of Hobby Close in Wecock Farm was going to Waterlooville with son Owen, seven, on Saturday.

He took the chance to enter a prize draw to win 39 weeks of travel from Stagecoach while riding the bus and took full advantage of the buffet.

Mr Lane said it was a new experience on the bus.

He said: ‘It’s about time they’ve got new buses around this way, it’s really good.

‘We go on the buses because we don’t drive and I’ve got a young baby as well.’

Excited Owen was enjoying Stagecoach’s Very Important Passenger day as he tucked into sweets and cake.

He said: ‘It makes a change, instead of really old buses these are proper.’

The new fleet all feature wi-fi and lowered floor easy-access – an improvement on the old fleet’s stair access buses.

And with the new buses, the service now runs every 10 minutes, as opposed to every 15 minutes previously.

Its full route includes Havant, Leigh Park, Asda, South Downs College, Waterlooville and Wecock Farm.

Matt Cooper, assistant operations manager at Portsmouth’s Stagecoach depot, said he wanted to give passengers a special welcome to the new fleet.

He said: ‘The reaction’s been good, all positive – with the layout of the buses they look smarter and they’re cleaner.

‘It’s an upgrade, some of the buses we had on before were some of the oldest that we had in the fleet.

‘Every so often we’ll review a route and it was the turn of the 39 so we’ve got new buses for it.

Margaret Beacher, 66 of Albretia Avenue in Waterlooville was heading into the precinct to do some shopping.

She said: ‘It’s really nice, it’s a real treat.

‘The buses are clean and comfortable, they’re easy to get on and off.

‘I’ve got a bit of trouble with my feet and I don’t like the big steps.’