By Connor Steel
FIRST BUS SOLENT have confirmed that more daytime Eclipse routes will be made available from tomorrow (July 10), the news announced in a press release earlier this week as summer timetables were released to counteract a higher demand for public transport across the region over recent weeks and months.
Although there are subtle changes to services in Portsmouth, the biggest tweak to previous timetables will be seen for regular commuters across Gosport and Fareham; the popular E1 and E2 Eclipse routes set to run every 8 minutes in both directions during the daytime hours of the working week (Monday to Friday).
This is an improvement on current frequency levels where the same services run every ten to 12 minutes, a schedule that has remained relatively unchanged since Covid-19 measures were first implemented in 2020. During this period rules including limited capacity on buses and reduced timetables were in place to balance demand with the ongoing restrictions; such as social distancing and even the wearing of face coverings.
But as residents continue their everyday activities and commuters return to the offices, services have been notably busy over recent months particularly at peak hours or days; hence this move from First Bus Solent chiefs. This increased frequency level will be apparent on roads across Gosport and Fareham, in particular in both town centres and along the Bus Rapid Transit lane (BRT) where both the Eclipse services serve.
Under the updated timetables daytime E1 and E2 services will run every sixteen minutes in both directions adjacent to each other instead of the previous twenty minutes; meaning that a bus will be available every eight minutes at certain stops. An example would be E1 services leaving Fareham Bus Station at 12:11pm and 12:27pm with an E2 journey from 12:19pm; with no changes made to weekend or bank holiday timings.
Reacting to the developments shared on social media and the provider’s official website earlier this week Carol Sim, First Bus Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire’s Head of Operations, said in a short press release: “We are delighted to announce this increased frequency for Eclipse E1/E2 – a testimony to the continuing success of the Eclipse BRT. We hope the change will help people in the local area get around even quicker.”
The approximately 2.8 mile BRT, also known as Henry Court Way, opened in 2012 and is celebrating its ten year anniversary throughout 2022, allowing buses to avoid the congested A32 artery between Gosport and Fareham to improve efficiency of local public transport. Although it suffered a downward trend in 2020 the Eclipse services drew over two million passenger journeys between 2019 and 2021 according to official data.
And December 2021 saw this dedicated off road busway extended from Hutfield Link to Rowner Road, a move that proved controversial as it ultimately led to the closure of popular stops alongside Forest Way and Tichborne Way including the Brockhurst Gate shops. Work had previously started on this extension in early 2020 and undertaken in association with Hampshire County Council staff; costing millions of pounds overall.
A new fleet of buses were also introduced to the Eclipse services in mid-April this year, which are classed as offering “the best of modern bus” travel. The new bus vehicles are said to use low emissions in a bid to cut-down air pollution and improve the environment; whilst furthermore offering free WIFI connections, at-seat USB cable charging points and informing next step audio / visual announcements to help all its customers.
Readers can see the newly updated timetables, maps and more information on the Eclipse services by using the link here, which includes access to PDF and printable schedules for bus users across the local area.
PICTURED BY SOUTHERN ENGLAND BUS SCENE: Eclipse service stopping near Walpole Park, Gosport.