THERE was a time when they ruled the seafront and now classic open-top buses are set to make a comeback in Portsmouth.
Visitors and locals alike will soon be able to regularly board double-decker sightseeing buses in Southsea for the first time in a decade.
The city might have changed enormously since their 60s heyday, but the city council is hoping the new cream cruisers will still prove popular with the public.
In an effort to boost tourism in Portsmouth the old-fashioned buses will ferry people from Henderson Road, in Eastney, all the way to Gunwharf Quays.
The X25 bus service will be run by Eastleigh-based family firm Xelabus on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from May 5 and then daily from July 23 until September 2.
Company director Philip Blair said he lived in the Portsmouth area during the early 60s and used to watch the open-top buses drive up and down the seafront.
He said: ‘I have been looking at doing something in Portsmouth for a while now.
‘We thought the city was crying out for a service like this, it’s been 10 years since the last one ran in 2002.
‘With all the attractions and picturesque sights on the seafront we thought it would be perfect.
‘We have taken a bit of a risk, though we know that the council members support us.
‘None of the big operators was interested but we decided to trial this for a year and see how it goes.’
The new buses are the result of Xelabus, Portsmouth City Council and the Seafront Attractions and Traders Forums working together.
City seafront manager David Evans said: ‘This is a very exciting opportunity for all the attractions and businesses on the seafront to work in partnership with a transport provider and generously make available discounts for our residents and visitors alike.
‘It also complements the seafront strategy by connecting the historic naval base with the seafront, thereby establishing Portsmouth as a total destination all along our great waterfront city. Put simply there’s never been a better time to visit Portsmouth.’
Existing residents’ bus passes will be valid on the new service and there will also be all-day tickets which provide discounts for seafront attractions.
Lib Dem Cllr Lee Hunt, the city’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: ‘This new commercial venture will bring more tourists from our historic dockyard, with its fabulous maritime heritage, and the new Mary Rose Museum to enjoy the common and our stunning seafront with all its attractions – picking up local people and visitors all along the way.’
For more information on planned times and prices visit xelabus.info.