A NEW bus fleet serving Portsmouth and the surrounding areas has been unveiled and has hit the road.
Operator First has launched the 17 new vehicles, which will run every 15 minutes between Portsmouth and Southampton via Fareham and Gosport.
The fleet costing £2.75m has free wi-fi and ‘next stop’ displays and announcements for people who are unsure of their stop or new to the area.
The bus stops will have real-time updates letting passengers know when the service is due to arrive.
At the launch of the Solent Rangers, at Portchester Castle, councillors from Fareham and Gosport as well as employees from First were given a look at the fleet.
Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Councillor Sean Woodward, who is also in charge of transport at the county council, said: ‘These buses are doing the really important route from Portsmouth to Southampton.
This service has been up and running for a few years now and it has gone from strength to strength.Dervla McKay
‘The important thing about public transport is that it is frequent, clean and affordable. First is making every effort to make sure that is delivered.’
Cllr Woodward said he was hoping the Solent Rangers would be as successful as the Eclipse service which runs between Fareham and Gosport.
‘The Eclipse service is a big success story,’ he added.
‘Last year, we had two million customers of which 20 per cent had access to a car but chose to use the bus.
‘That means we are seeing the moving from cars to buses in Fareham and Gosport.
‘The Solent Rangers will encourage this further.’
Also at the launch were Gosport councillors Graham Burgess, Dennis Wright and Jill Wright.
Cllr Burgess said: ‘This is a good investment for the area.
‘Everyone in Gosport will welcome it with its improved access, new facilities and wi-fi.’
Cllr Jill Wright added: ‘These new buses will make the journey between Portsmouth and Southampton much better.’
The buses are part of the rebrand of the old Solent Ranger services the X4 and X5.
They will operate along the same route from Portsmouth and Gosport via Fareham to Southampton, calling at intermediary towns and villages such as Park Gate, Locks Heath, Stubbington, Lee-on-the-Solent and Portchester.
Dervla McKay, general manager of First Solent, said: ‘This service is a lifeline for people living in places like Locks Heath and Stubbington. It has been up and running for a few years now and it has gone from strength to strength.’