Competing companies accused of waging ‘bus wars’ over same route

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City Red Totton
City Red is competing with Bluestar on the route between Calmore and Southampton city centre

TWO transport companies have been accused of waging “bus wars” against one another after a new route was launched from Totton.

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Last month City Red, which is owned by First Group, began running its Number 1 service between Calmore and Southampton city centre.

But the company has since come under fire from senior New Forest councillor David Harrison who accused it of launching the new offering simply to drive out local rival Bluestar, which operates a similar trip.

Despite having initially welcomed the extra provision, Cllr Harrison said: “It adds nothing for passengers, except for the fact that we have buses picking up people on the same route every 10 minutes or so.

“The result, as you might imagine, is that we have lots of buses travelling along the same route from Calmore to Southampton, many of them empty or with only one or two passengers.

“It’s definitely not in the public interest because the obvious intention is for one company to drive the other out of business.”

Calling instead for a new direct route to Southampton General Hospital, Cllr Harrison added: “I have even been told it is a ‘tit for tat’ action because the blue buses have started operating in an area which was the domain of the other company.

“If nothing is done, one bus company will be driven out of business, the other will have a monopoly and we all know what happens when customers don’t have a choice.”

He called for City Red and Bluestar to give an explanation of their “bus wars” to Totton and Eling Town Council. Neither the Bluestar, owned by Go Ahead Group, nor City Red routes to Southampton receive public subsidies.

City Red Totton
Bluestar managing director Andrew Wickham welcomed “healthy competition”

In response, Marc Reddy, City Red’s managing director, said the service had been welcomed by customers, with passenger numbers higher than expected, and it provided a quicker and more frequent link from Calmore to Southampton.

He added: “Competition between bus operators is perfectly normal and common practice for decades – it’s a healthy part of the UK economy. It ensures customers get better quality bus services, at a higher frequency, and often at a lower price too.

“Indeed, if passengers continue to use the service in sufficient numbers during the daytime, it makes commercial sense for us to introduce an evening service at a later stage, which we as a bus operator investing in our Southampton network would be keen to do.”

Bluestar managing director Andrew Wickham said: “We develop our routes based on customer requests and travel patterns, and we monitor our services constantly to ensure they are meeting requirements.

“We welcome healthy competition, and the opportunity for local people to choose which service they would like to travel on.”

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