IN A move which would have infuriated the grumpy 'Blakey', star of 1960s TV comedy On The Buses, the new man at the wheel of a Southampton bus company is to demand staff are nice to customers.

The new Solent Blue Line managing director wants to banish the cantankerous image created by the show's Inspector Blake in favour of "first class" service.

And Phil Stockley plans to get on the buses himself to find out first-hand what passengers experience every day. In his first interview since taking over the hot seat, Mr Stockley says he wants big changes.

"Historically, the bus industry as a whole is nothing like as focused on the customer as it should be," he said.

"We are obsessed with running buses, but don't give enough thought as to whether they are doing what existing - and potential - customers would like them to do.

"My immediate priority is to get the company very much focused on the basics of good service delivery which essentially means making sure our driving staff is giving a first-class service to passengers," he added.

There's no substitute for a hands-on approach, so he plans a series of bus journeys for himself and management to talk to passengers and staff.

"We get an edited snapshot of what goes on in the real world of bus travel. There's no substitute for getting out there and seeing it at first-hand."

"We have to create a culture within the company which means staff feel empowered to give a good service on the patch, we keep abreast of what customers want and we deliver day to day."

"If we can get into the position where our staff are continuously giving an excellent service and our customers are repeatedly gaining a satisfactory experience then we have a positive spiral. People have been persuaded that public transport is a good thing - and it is.

"I want to manoeuvre the business into a position where we customers return time upon time."