Call to open Fareham to Gosport bus route to taxis

ONE YEAR ON  Cllr Mel Kendal, lead member for transport on Hampshire County Council , centre, of Hampshire County Council launches the BRT scheme 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (121459-5)
ONE YEAR ON Cllr Mel Kendal, lead member for transport on Hampshire County Council , centre, of Hampshire County Council launches the BRT scheme 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121459-5)

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TAXI firms have called for the route used by a rapid bus scheme between Fareham and Gosport to be opened up to taxi drivers.

The call comes as the Bus Rapid Transit Scheme marks its first anniversary.

On April 22 last year, First Bus launched the Eclipse services E1 and E2 along with the 7.4km dedicated bus lane running from Redlands Lane in Fareham and Tichborne Way in Gosport.

Taxi firms in the area want the route to be opened up for their drivers.

Phil Cox, director of Hardway Cabs in Gosport said not being able to use the route on the disused railway corridor was unfair competition.

He said: ‘Any bus lane should be for buses and taxis, and for fair play to the customer.

‘You’re sat queueing on that Fareham Road with passengers in, the fare is getting dearer and dearer. If you could use the bus lane, we could shoot up there in no time, which would mean a fairer price for customers.’

Hampshire County Council and the firm want to extend the route off-road from Tichborne Way to Rowner Road, with an on-road extension which would continue from Rowner Road to Gosport’s town centre.

The county council has now applied for £7.9m government funding, which if granted will see the off-road section open in February 2015 and the on-road section open in November 2014.

As reported, Norman Baker, the minister for local transport, rode the BRT back in January as county councillors and bus bosses asked him for the cash needed to extend.

Steve Hobbs, commercial bus manager at First Bus, said: ‘It’s been a good year and we’ve increased patronage by more than 11 per cent on the BRT alone. It’s just a matter of waiting for the application.’

He added the bus route, which is open to cyclists, allowed a quick service for a high volume of people travelling between Gosport and Fareham.

He said he did not think the dedicated bus route would work as well as it had if it was opened to other traffic.

He said: ‘I don’t think it would work as well – not at all.

‘The whole idea of it is to get rapid transit through to Fareham station and to Fareham.’

The scheme has seen a 64 per cent increase in people using the service compared to its predecessors, the 82 and 86 services.

The number of overall users of public transport has increased by 11.86 per cent.

First refused to release detailed passenger numbers, saying it was commercially sensitive.

Bus user Hazel Weyman, 79, of Endeavour Close in Gosport, said she did not think the route should be opened to taxis. She said: ‘You don’t get held up in all that traffic. I think it’s better without it and it’s easier for cyclists as well. I use it if I go to Fareham or The Range.’