AS the bus wars hot up a new public transport upstart is preparing for battle.

The new firm is running one route along the Southampton to Bournemouth corridor.

There are three members of staff and just three buses but the company Travel Guest hopes to grow and extend its services across Hampshire and beyond.

Boss and driver Paul Guest is aware of the fierce competition for supremacy in the area but confident his fledgling firm has what it takes to survive and grow.

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The Sprinter service he runs – otherwise known as the X5 and X55 – goes from West Quay, Southampton, through Millbrook, Redbridge, Ringwood and on to Bournemouth.

Paul, a 43-year-old dad-of-two, runs the company with wife Nicky and one driver.

He said: “We are really enjoying running the service. The most important thing is the wonderful feedback we are getting from the public.

“We are never going to get rich on the buses.

We are doing it because we love it. The difference between us and the giants is the personal touch and friendly service we are able to give.”

He believes the Bournemouth service, which only started running this week, will be an important service for pensioners, Christmas shoppers and beachgoers.

The much fought-over streets of Hampshire are currently seeing First Group-owned Greyhound vying for business with National Express and Megabus while the bitter rivalry between Black Velvet and Blue Star is now the subject of a top level investigation.

Paul, a Gulf War veteran, said: “The big boys have neglected this route for sometime.

We just want to be left alone to get on with it.

The day ticket costs £7 and the journey takes one hour and 16 minutes.”