A LEADING Hampshire bus company has today secured a take over of crucial routes serving rural communities in Hampshire.

Xelabus announced it has bought six new services linking Southampton and villages in the eastern part of the county.

But bosses insist passengers can expect timetables to remain running as normal without any travel disruption.

The Eastleigh-based company has bought the services from rival Brijan Tours.

The routes changing hands are the 7 (Bishops Waltham - Southampton), 8 (Bishops Waltham - Eastleigh), 15 (Hedge End Superstores - Hamble Square) 17 (Bishops Waltham - Petersfield), 505 (Wyvern and Stoke Park schools) and 607 (Waltham Chase - Barton Peveril).

Today's announcement comes ahead of the acquisition formally completing next month before services are fully transferred on Monday, September 7.

Brijan, based in West End, sold the routes to focus on its operation of coaches.

But it will retain its S1 school service from Swanmore to Whiteley.

The 8B (Botley - Eastleigh) will become part of the new X15 service serving Boorley Green Under the deal 12 Brijan drivers will be transferred to Xelabus, while remaining staff will be retained to operate its coaches.

Xelabus managing director Philip Blair, who runs the company with son Gareth said: "We have worked very hard to build the company to the position it is in now. We are both pleased to welcome the Brijan staff and will continue the good work provided by Brijan Tours to serve the many customers they have welcomed aboard over the past years"

The takeover comes on the fifth anniversary of the family owned bus company which has grown from running three buses to 30 vehicles and licences.

Brijan director Gary Priest said the decision was based on the need for the buses requiring upgrades, adding: "The company was running very old vehicles that needed investment and the owners didn't want that. They are going to concentrate on coaches rather than buses.

"We would like to tank the staff and public for their support over the years."

The deal comes after Xelabus bought the former Black Velvet bus services operating in Southampton.

The firm has also invested in excess of £1.3 million for newer and more environmentally friendly Scania and Enviro buses Brijan previously tried to sell a number of routes to Cardiff-based Apec Travel in April but the deal eventually fell through.