A RAPID bus route has been improved with more than half a million pounds ploughed into the service.
Currently the Eclipse E1 and E2 services operate from Fareham to Gosport every six minutes and, for part of it, travel on a 3.4km dedicated bus route that utilises the old railway line.
The £560,000 investment, approved by the county council, has funded improvements to the service, including improvements to bus access at the junction with The Crossways and Lees Lane, on the A32 Forton Road.
The council now hopes to progress the service with an extension to the bus route adjacent to Tichborne Way, joining on to Rowner Road.
The council hopes that it will improve bus journey reliability, and encourage more people to ditch their cars, improving traffic congestion.
Since its introduction in April 2012, the Eclipse has been hailed as a success. Figures from bus company First show that 65 per cent more passengers use it than the services they directly replaced, the 82 and 86, and the overall route carried around 1.5m passengers in its first year.
Executive member for transport Cllr Sean Woodward will be looking at ways the county council can bid for the money for the extension.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘This is the second phase of the BRT (bus rapid transit) project, taking it into Gosport. The third phase will be taking it to Welborne.
‘It is an extension to the BRT route – at the moment it goes from north Gosport to south Fareham, and this will extend it straight into the heart of Gosport. It will eventually go from Gosport to Fareham to Welborne and then on to Whiteley and Portsmouth. It is a big project over a lot of years. There have been really positive results from the route, showing that it really does make a difference when you travel by bus with reliable and frequent journey times.’
The news was welcomed by passengers at Fareham bus station yesterday.
Husband and wife Vic and Mary Arnold, from Meadow Walk, Gosport, said they were impressed by the service.
Mrs Arnold, 65, said: ‘It is excellent, we don’t get stuck in traffic, especially at peak times, so it’s not even worth bringing the car into Fareham.’
Shane Fox, 21, from Bridgemary, said: ‘It is a brilliant service as it is so frequent and regular, and you don’t even need to check the timetable.’
Margaret Bodman, 69, from Elson, said: ‘It is quicker now that it has got a direct route.’
First has put on extra services on a Sunday and is also introducing extra night-time journeys.