Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Changes this weekend / Stockley statement

We have a few changes happening this weekend, so here's a summary of them all:

More 112 becomes useful from Saturday. For the summer holidays only, rebranded The Beach Bus, it will be running hourly every daytime and is rerouted to serve Lepe Beach, Exbury Gardens and Beaulieu's National Motor Museum. Bluestar Explorers at £8.50 are valid if you want to connect with route 6 at Lymington or routes 8 and 9 in Hythe, or there is a day ticket valid only on the 112 at £6, which you can also use on the iconic and historic Hythe Ferry to really make the most of your day out.

From Sunday, First 4/4A/X4 towards Locks Heath, Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth become the X4 and X5 with simplified routes and more buses to Fareham. See the new timetables here.

From Monday, Paultons Park gets easier to visit with more journeys on Salisbury Reds X7 running right to the park's entrance. See the new timetable here. Don't forget that if you want to visit Paultons on a Sunday, then you need to use Gardbus 139.

Phil Stockley, formerly of Velvet, has given his informative take on last week's events in a comment to this blog's most recent post. You can read it here. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for his regular contributions to this blog's comments and to wish him, Velvet's remaining staff and the company's new owners all the very best for the future.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Bluestar hands M back to Velvet

Bluestar have advised that they are no longer running the M, which they had taken on after Velvet collapsed last week.

Now Velvet are running again, Marwell Zoo have said they want to keep the contract with Velvet.

While this is good for Velvet and their new owners, whoever they may be, passengers lose out. With Bluestar running the M, you could use a Southampton Plus Dayrider at £5.60 to get from the city to the zoo. Now Velvet are back on the route, the Bluestar ticket isn't valid on the M and it now costs £8 for a Solent Travelcard to make the same journey.

Hats off to Bluestar for the professional yet jovial tone of their notice to passengers.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Velvet revolution: Buses back on the road thanks to mystery buyer

Velvet has been bought out of receivership and its buses are back on the road. It's not yet been confirmed who the new owners are.

The company have confirmed that they are running routes A, B4, S1 and S2 today.

Their other routes will remain with the new operators, Xelabus and Bluestar.

Comments on Velvet's Facebook page suggest that the replacement operators have not been made aware that Velvet are back on routes S1 and S2, which are seeing a Velvet bus in convoy with a Bluestar one. A similar situation has been reported in Hedge End, with Velvet and Wheelers buses running in convoy on route A.

More as we get it.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Almost all Velvet routes rehomed / Bluestar to Marwell Zoo

Following yesterday's shock news that Velvet have closed down, the other operators in our region have been working very quickly to make sure that none of Velvet's passengers will be left stranded.

Today, Bluestar have confirmed that they will be running route M between Eastleigh and Marwell Zoo from Saturday. Great news for passengers travelling from Southampton, as you can now use a Southampton Plus Dayrider at £5.60 to connect from Bluestar 2 to the M. Before, you needed a Solent Travelcard at £8 to make the same journey.

Bluestar are also running routes S1, S2 and B4.

Xelabus have taken on evening journeys on the X4 and evening and Sunday journeys on the X7.

Wheelers are now running the A between Southampton and Hedge End.

The only route left unclaimed is the E8, which provided evening and Sunday journeys between Eastleigh and Boyatt Wood. It should have been running tonight, so hopefully Hampshire County Council can convince someone to run it in time for tomorrow night's service.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

End of the road for Velvet: All routes cancelled

Velvet have ceased trading as of today. Their buses are off the road for good. This is the message that is currently visible on their website:

Evening journeys on the X4 and evening and Sunday journeys on the X7 are transferring to Xelabus with immediate effect. It is not yet clear what will happen with the other route Velvet ran under contract to Hampshire County Council: the E8. The council will be looking to sign up another operator to run it at short notice but until then, it will not be running. Bluestar have said that they will take over running routes S1, S2 and B4 under contract to Southampton City Council from tomorrow, Thursday 17th July.

The A was their only remaining commercial route. Wheelers have registered to run a new route, the WA, between Southampton and Hedge End starting 1st September. Officially they have to give 56 days notice, but it appears that they have been granted an exemption in order to start running the WA from tomorrow, Thursday 17th July. Passengers between Southampton and Hedge End can also use Bluestar 3 or First 8.

Route M between Eastleigh and Marwell Zoo is also no longer running, which is bad news for the zoo right at the start of the summer school holidays. Hopefully another operator will step in to run this vital link to one of our region's biggest attractions.

Velvet was always well respected and it is sad to see them go. They started with what was then route A between Eastleigh and Hedge End and route C between Eastleigh and Chandlers Ford after Bluestar withdrew from those routes. Then there was a war with Bluestar on the Eastleigh to Fair Oak corridor and also on what was then route B between Eastleigh and Southampton via Boyatt Wood, Velmore and Bassett. Bluestar won both of those squabbles (and withdrew their Beep Bus as soon as Velvet B has been withdrawn), but Velvet soldiered on and carved a niche for itself as the quality local operator, picking up tenders from Southampton City and Hampshire County Councils as well as launching a commercial route between Southampton and Hedge End.

Then routes became unviable, contracts were lost to Xelabus and reports appeared in the Echo that Velvet were having financial problems. A merger with Xelabus was cancelled at the last minute, before Velvet's original route between Eastleigh and Hedge End was transferred to Xelabus on a commercial basis.

More recently, the registration by Wheelers of a route between Southampton and Hedge End threatened Velvet with a bus war on their only remaining commercial route. It's a sad end to a high quality local bus operator.

Share your memories of Velvet in the comments section below.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

5 years of impartial and comprehensive bus news!

It seems hard to believe it but this blog has now been running for five years. There have been many changes to Southampton's bus services over that time and each and every one of them, regardless of operator, has been covered on this site. You can delve into the archives in the panel on the right.

To celebrate, here are a few statistics:

This page currently receives between 650 and 800 pageviews a day. Almost a quarter of readers are from outside the UK, with the USA and Germany accounting for most foreign visitors

Most people who access this site via a link do so from the following sites (with the highest number of referrals first):

I'm extremely grateful to the administrators of the other blogs that link to this one. If you're aware of a blog to which we ought to link and don't currently, please either leave a comment or send me an e-mail (

The blogging platform on which this page is hosted is owned by Google, which enables me to see some additional information from them. The most popular search terms which resulted in a clickthrough from Google to Southampton Bus Update are (most popular first):

No big surprises there. Our five most read pages and posts of the last five years are as follows:

  • 5: 29th July 2013: Xelabus X7 changes from today
  • 4: Local Bus Route Directory: A comprehensive list of all bus routes in our region from all operators, detailing areas served and with links to full bus stop listings and live departure info from major stops.
  • 3: Changes on the Way: Our constantly-updated list of changes that are scheduled to take place over the next couple of months. This is the only page on the web which provides such information across all bus operators in our region.
  • 2: Day Out Ideas: Paultons Park: Originally published 1st February 2012 but regularly updated as information changes. This attracts a lot of hits from readers outside Southampton who are looking for a car-free way to access our region's tourist attractions. Hopefully this post has persuaded a few more people to try out Salisbury Reds X7 or Gardbus 139.
  • 1: 28th March 2012: New First Network: routes 4, 4A and X4 analysed: The most read post of all time was published in the run up to the biggest overhaul of Southampton's bus routes since deregulation. Not only did it affect us, but it was also relevant to our dear neighbours in Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth.

I don't tend to mention myself much on this blog, preferring to let the relevant content take centre stage. But, as a thank you for reading and supporting this blog over five years, here's a bit more background about me: I was born in and grew up in Southampton and went to college in Eastleigh. When it was in its short existence, I could occasionally be heard reading the travel news and then later on the news bulletins on Max FM, which broadcast to Southampton mainly on cable but occasionally on FM in the mid to late 90s. After that I went to study in the North of England, where I remained for 17 years.

It was on a visit back home to Southampton, after the bus routes I was familiar with had changed beyond recognition, that I had to do some research to work out how to get around and then the idea for this site was born. If I, who has always used public transport and know where to find out about the buses, was having trouble navigating the several sources across which the information is now spread, then surely other people would be having the same trouble. Some of them would get so frustrated that they would choose not to use the bus after all, or maybe to visit somewhere else in the country instead. If only there was one site where people could keep up to date with what buses are running where and be notified of any changes that are about to happen, I thought. That's when this site came about.

I've not actually lived in Southampton in all the time I've been writing this site, but I've visited several times and still know the area like the back of my hand from when I was growing up. There was even a time when I was writing posts from Germany, as my then employer had sent me over there to work. Now I'm based near Bristol. I've never actually worked in the bus industry, but I've relied on buses all my life, even as those around me lazily hopped into their ever more expensive cars, so I have a real appreciation for the work and planning that goes into keeping the buses running. And I know what information passengers and potential passengers need in order to get the most out of a bus service.

This site takes up a lot of my time, but it has spawned some smaller-scale spin-offs: one for Brentwood in Essex and one for Portishead in Somerset, both initially to help out people I know in those locations, but available to all. I also now run two national sites: Great British Bus Routes and the British Bus Bugle.

But it was Southampton where it all started and which this blog will continue to cover. As in 2009, this is still the only page on the internet that covers all of the bus services in our region, regardless of operator. So thank you so much for reading and commenting, as knowing that my work is useful to someone makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Hedge Enders: Four contenders?

Wheelers have registered a new route to run between the city centre and Hedge End from 1st September: the WA.

If this isn't an agreed handover from Velvet A, then it gives Hedge End residents a choice of no less than four bus operators to use to get to Southampton:

  • Bluestar 3: The once dominant operator's only remaining route in the area. Hourly Mon-Sats, just a handful of journeys on Sundays.
  • First 8: Only serves the superstores and the railway station, not the town centre or Oaklands, but it does run twice an hour and extends through the town centre in the evenings.
  • Velvet A: The most direct route, every 30 mins, but no service in the evenings or on Sundays.
  • Wheelers WA: The new option. Details yet to be revealed.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

First X4/X5: Timetables revealed

First have released the timetable for the new X4 and X5 services, which will replace the current 4/4A/X4 services from Sunday 27th July. See the new timetable here.

See a full stop listing for both routes here.

Route map from First's new Fareham & Gosport timetable booklet

Friday, 4 July 2014

More buses to Paultons Park on Salisbury Reds X7

Salisbury Reds X7 is having a timetable change on 27th July so that more buses will run right up to the entrance of Paultons Park:

The current X7 timetable is here. Details of the change are here and the new timetable is here.

If you want to visit Paultons Park on a Sunday or bank holiday, you can using Gardbus 139.