£11.6m Eclipse bus route extension opens on time

TIMEWISE Gosport and Fareham have grown a little closer together with the opening of the extension of the rapid transit busway used by the Eclipse buses.

The £11.6 million project was formally opened yesterday – Wednesday, December 1 – and the E1 and E2 buses will start using the additional one kilometre on Sunday, December 5.

The original plan to extend the rapid busway south from Titchfield Road/Hutfield Link had included demolishing the Rowner Road bridge but that was changed and the structure remains in place.

Instead, buses will now enter and exit the dedicated rapid transport route via a ramp with traffic lights at the eastern end of the bridge.

Revised timetables and routes

There are revised timetables for the E1 and E2 services, changes to the routes, and two new stops have been introduced – one for the leisure centre and ice rink, and the other at Oakdene.

Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Lead Member for Economy, Transport and Environment Councillor Rob Humby praised the project team and contractors for completing the scheme on time and added: “This type of transport infrastructure is completely in line with the Government’s national strategy ‘Bus Back Better’ and stands Hampshire in good stead for realising the vision to improve bus services outside of London.

“This dedicated additional one kilometre of busway forms part of a wider integrated transport strategy for South-East Hampshire which aims to reduce reliance on car travel by providing better public transport options, as well as to help reduce congestion and support the regionally important South-East Hampshire economy.”

The project is not without its critics

However, as reported in The Globe the extension of the busway has been criticised – especially on social media.

In particular, it could mean longer distances for some people to navigate – whether on foot or using a mobility scooter – their way to the new bus stops on the busway and that includes those who use the two Eclipse services to get to the shops at Brockhurst Gate.

Increase in passenger journeys

Currently, more than two million passenger journeys are made each year and First Hampshire Dorset and Berkshire’s Managing Director Marc Reddy said: “Since its launch in 2012, the Eclipse has been a huge success.

“The rapid transit busway cuts out congestion, leading to quick and reliable bus services which have tempted people out of their cars. Consequently, passenger numbers have risen dramatically.”

Spending will not end with new buses promised

Funding for the extension has come from three sources: the Department for Transport’s National Productivity Investment Fund has contributed £6.93 million with another £1.4 million from its Transforming Cities Fund; and Hampshire County Council has put in £3.27 million.

First Bus is supporting this investment by spending £3.8m on a new bus fleet.

Second largest English town without a railway station?

The 4.5-kilometre rapid transport busway follows part of the former Gosport-Fareham railway line and it has locally been claimed that the demise of the railway left Gosport as the largest town in England without a railway station.

However, the BBC South Today report of the opening of the extension stated that Gosport is the second largest town without a railway station.

No source of this ‘fact’ was provided. Wikipedia lists Dudley in the Midlands as the largest built-up area without a railway station, with Gosport in second place. Though this ranking may change soon because an extension to the West Midlands Metro is planned and it will include Dudley.

PICTURED: Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Lead Member for Economy, Transport and Environment Councillor Rob Humby cuts the ribbon assisted by Marc Reddy, managing director of First Hampshire Dorset and Berkshire