A FREE bus service has been set up to serve Whiteley Shopping Centre.
The service, called the WS, short for the Whiteley Shuttle, launched on Tuesday and is being run on weekday lunchtimes.
It will pick up workers from the business park and shuttle them between Tesco, Parkway and the top of Yew Tree Drive.
The move has been welcomed by workers and district councillors Sam Newman-McKie and Vivian Achwal.
Cllr Newman-McKie said: ‘We asked for more bus services as soon as the plans for the new shopping centre were announced several years ago and are delighted to see the new bus around town.’
They suggested this measure could alleviate some of the congestion and if successful could be extended in the future.
Kelly Shaw, who runs kSPA salon at Parkway, said: ‘You don’t want to lose your car parking space around here as you’ll never find another one so the new shuttle sounds like a great idea.’
Eight services will run during a two-and-a-half hour lunchtime period on weekdays.
The service takes 18 minutes to make a full circular trip. The first one leaves Whiteley Tesco at 11.50 and the service runs every 20 minutes until 2.10pm.
Neil Carter, Whiteley Shopping Centre manager, said the service had been introduced to reduce vehicle numbers in and around the business park and shopping centre, as well as providing a service for those living locally.
He said the shopping centre would be funding a one year trial when its popularity would be reviewed.
Mr Carter added: ‘The introduction of the service is a key aspect of our travel plan. By introducing a free service we’ll be able to assess the impact on vehicle numbers and gauge demand from the nearby workers and residents. I hope that this is the first step towards a much improved public transport service for Whiteley.’
Bus operator First will be running the service on behalf of Whiteley Shopping Centre.
Chrissie Bainbridge, general manager of First Hampshire, said: ‘We’re delighted to have been awarded the contract on behalf of Whiteley Shopping.
‘We hope the staff working on the business park will see it as a valuable service, making it much easier for them to reach the nearby shops with minimum fuss and maximum convenience and comfort.’