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Omicron prompts local bus changes

By Connor Steel

FIRST BUS have announced that temporarily reduced timetables will run in the Portsmouth area from this weekend; with the company joining others facing staff and driver shortages due to Covid-19 isolation rules over the Omicron variant over the festive season.

The move was confirmed by the bus company in a statement earlier this week (Tuesday) in which they said: “Along with the rest of the bus industry and other industries across the UK, we are experiencing a shortage of bus drivers due to the increasing number of our staff absent through isolation. We are doing everything we can to maintain services. “

“To mitigate the current shortage and ensure our customers can plan their journeys with confidence, we have made some temporary short notice timetable adjustments to our Solent services including Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth. These changes are intended to minimise disruption for our customers so that they can plan their travel with more certainty.”

Portsmouth’s bus network bares most of the changes, with the number 18 bus to Paulgrove set to run every 35 minutes alongside minor tweaks to Star, 8, Star 7 and Star 7A services. This includes a reduction in buses per hour, although more buses will be added during peak times.

Similarly the E1 / E2 Eclipse services connecting Gosport and Fareham will also see minor changes to their timetables, although all other routes in both boroughs remain unaffected. Evening services on Monday to Saturday will be reduced slightly, buses now expected to run every 20 minutes in both directions.

This has been done to hopefully allow more buses to run in the early morning and evenings when demand is higher; services will run every ten minutes during this time to allow commuters a more punctual timetable and also encourage extra space to respect social distancing requirements of any users.

Sunday services will also be reduced to operate every fifteen minutes across Gosport and Fareham under the new timetable instead of every 10, but First Bus are hoping this will guarantee that scheduled services won’t be missed during the day. There is also no further information on when the temporary timetable is likely to end or be reviewed at this stage.

All timetable changes and further information can be found on the link, but users are asked to look before travelling and the company has apologised for any inconvenience caused. At the time of writing there is no scheduled timetable changes for the Gosport Ferry or train services, although Southern have cancelled London Victoria trains until January 10 in an announcement last week.

PICTURED BY EAMONN KENTALL: E2 bus stops outside Café Imbizo located on Trinity Street, Fareham