Hampshire & Isle of Wight

End of the line for New Forest Beach Bus for tourists

Beach Bus Image copyright Beach Bus
Image caption The Beach Bus ran six times a day during the school summer holidays

A summer tourist bus route serving the Solent coast and New Forest National Park has been withdrawn due to falling passenger numbers.

Operated by Morebus and supported by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA), the Beach Bus operated between Hythe, Lepe, Beaulieu and Lymington.

The service was launched in 2013 as a "sustainable transport" initiative with distinctive themed advertising.

The NPA blamed falling use and an end to government funding.

The bus ran six times daily and allowed passengers from Southampton to travel by ferry to Hythe and connect with the bus to the coast.

They were also given discounts at tourist attractions and a free ice cream at Lepe Beach.

A Morebus spokeswoman said there was an average of 106 passenger journeys per day during the summer of 2017.

"The amount of funding available, coupled with revenue from passengers, is no longer sufficient to justify the operation of the service," she added.

Image copyright Beach Bus
Image caption The Beach Bus was launched with distinctive branding and a social media advertising campaign

She said the Blustar 9 service would be extended to serve Lepe and users could connect with the New Forest Tour bus.

An NPA spokesman said: "Since our sustainable transport funding from central government ended, there has been significantly less money available to support schemes such as the Beach Bus. This means we have to look carefully at where our funding will deliver the best results."

The service had been heralded as a "key part" of the NPA's sustainable transport policy.

Speaking in 2014, chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said it "helps reduce congestion and carbon emissions to help protect the National Park's special qualities".

David Harrison, NPA member and Liberal Democrat county councillor, said the cut was a "backward step" in reducing car usage in the forest.

Peter King, who is leading a campaign to take Hythe Pier into community ownership, said: "Changing habits and encouraging people to use these services is a challenge but one I think we have to address."

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