THESE naval-themed buses have proved just the ticket in coaxing more people to swap their cars for public transport.
More than three million people have climbed on board First’s new fleet of Star buses in its first year of operation, The News can reveal.
One year on from the launch of the vehicles, each one named after a Portsmouth-based Royal Navy warship, the bus firm held a birthday celebration at the naval base.
Sailors from three ships were invited to board their namesake buses and swap their captain’s chair for the driver’s seat.
It was a cause for celebration for First Hampshire’s managing director Marc Reddy, who said he was thrilled with the 12 per cent rise in passengers.
Mr Reddy said: ‘We are thrilled the Star services have so far been used by three million people and we look forward to welcoming even more new customers in the years ahead.
‘Our first priority is to continuously improve our services for existing customers and to encourage more people to consider using the bus, especially in a bustling city like Portsmouth.’
The 26 buses in the Star fleet that went into service on routes 7 and 8 in October last year replaced the ZIP-branded vehicles that had been running on the A3 bus corridor.
They operate from Waterlooville and Clanfield to Cosham, Portsmouth city centre, Gunwharf and Southsea.
Commander Peter Laughton, the commanding officer of HMS Lancaster, said: ‘It was a real privilege to join the three buses for the anniversary.
‘It’s a fabulous initiative to link ships to the buses it really brings home the maritime heritage of Portsmouth and the continuing relevance of the navy.’
Representatives from the navy and from First Bus marked the one-year anniversary by cutting a birthday cake.
Councillor Ken Ellcome, the councillor in charge of transport in Portsmouth, said: ‘It is great to see a first-class service like the Star running in Portsmouth, particularly one that reflects the city’s naval heritage so well.
‘First has worked hard to create an attractive service and had a positive impact in its launch year.’
The buses are named after Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender, Duncan, Illustrious, Kent, St Albans, Lancaster, Iron Duke, Westminster, Richmond, Tyne, Severn, Mersey, Ledbury, Cattistock, Brocklesby, Chiddingfold, Atherstone, Hurworth, Quorn, the Mary Rose, Victory and Warrior.