Historic Portsmouth bus route to be axed

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BUS driver Darren Marshall is to drive his former route one last time before it is axed – in a preserved Portsmouth bus from the 1980s.

The 29-year-old, from Eastney, drove the 17 and 18 circular route through Southsea to The Hard for seven years, and now he will get behind the wheel of his own bus to make the trip.

The route began as a tramline in 1931 and has remained largely unchanged for 81 years.

But operator First Hampshire and Dorset Ltd has decided to alter the city’s routes, as previously reported.

To mark the end of an era, Mr Mashall has organised six preserved buses to drive the route on November 17, acting as non-stop tour busses.

‘It’s one of the oldest routes in Portsmouth,’ he said.

‘And it’s remarkable that after all this time most of it is unchanged, despite how many different operators have had it.

‘This event is a celebration of how long it’s lasted, but it’s also a commiseration that it’s going after all this time.’

The first of the preserved buses will be waved off by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lynne Stagg, from Stand A at The Hard Interchange at 10am after a series of short speeches.

Subsequent tours will take place every half hour until 5pm.

Mr Marshall added: ‘It’s going to be a fun day out for all the family – how often do you get a chance to ride in a bus from yesteryear?

‘People will be able to enjoy the sights and smells of these old buses while riding a historic route on its last day of operation.’

Limited numbers of the route 17 and 18 history booklet, produced in 2006 when it celebrated 75 years of service, will be available to buy for £5 in the First travel office at The Hard Interchange.

All non-stop tours on the preserved buses are free.

Number 17 and 18 First services will run as normal throughout the day until 11.45pm when the last 18 will depart from The Hard Interchange.