PASSENGERS have been piling on to buses following the launch of a new rapid transit busway.
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route through Fareham and Gosport is now officially open after years of planning and construction.
Newly-released figures show around 1,700 people travelled on the buses on Sunday – 77 per cent more than the Sunday before.
And Monday saw a 20 per cent increase in passengers.
Transport leaders are already looking ahead at how to extend the route further into the two towns.
Marc Reddy, from First, the company operating the buses, said: ‘These are big numbers in terms of bus users.
‘Customers have been telling us their commute between Fareham and Gosport has been cut by 20 minutes.
‘This is only the beginning and we are very excited about plans to extend the busway.’
Future phases of the scheme could see the dedicated busway extended through Gosport past Holbrook and up to Fareham Railway Station.
Hampshire County Council’s councillor in charge of transport, Cllr Mel Kendal, said: ‘This is just the first phase.
‘We have planning permission to extend the busway all the way through Gosport and we own the land, we just need the funding.
‘It is very important people have got a reliable bus service like this.
‘We will measure its success on the number of passengers.’
When one of the new Eclipse buses currently reaches the end of the busway, it has to rejoin regular roads.
The scheme is part of a wider transport project for the whole of South East Hampshire.
One of First Group’s longest-serving bus drivers was given the honour of driving the first new bus down the route.
Nigel Edwards, 66, of Parker Close in Gosport, retires this year after 36 years.
He said: ‘It was a great honour and I was really pleased to be asked.
‘The new buses are excellent. Driving along the A32 is awful and it could take about half an hour.
‘But this new route skips past all that and takes hardly any time at all.’