A NEW bus firm is being launched in Hampshire today offering a free service around Eastleigh.

Chandler’s Ford based Xelabus will run a fleet of seven green double and single decker buses.

The buses are reminiscent of the old Hants and Dorset vehicles which served the south coast for many decades between 1920 and the early 1980s.

Gareth Blair, the operator behind Xelabus, said: “A new company created during the current recession has to be good news these days.

“We have also taken on four drivers so we believe we are putting something back into the community with the start of our services.’’ Vehicles from Xelabus are set to become a familiar sight on local roads undertaking contract work for schools, colleges as well as supermarket services and general, private hire.

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“Our buses are being used to take customers to supermarkets at Totton, Winchester and Bursledon,’’ said Mr Blair.

“On Saturday we will begin running a fully funded, free service in the Eastleigh area from Bishopstoke, Boyatt Wood and the Nightingale Estate.

“This will be an experimental service leading up to Christmas and then we will talk to local retailers again to judge how successful it was, but I believe such a service will reduce the number of cars on the road and so will be much better for the environment.’’ Xelabus will also be providing a park and ride service from Eastleigh on Saturday for fans of the band From the Jam who are performing at concert at Southampton Guildhall.

“Pride and effort has gone into establishing our services and I like to think we are a bus company with traditional values,’’ said Mr Blair, a keen bus enthusiast and vehicle collector.

“We have already received many kind comments from passengers on how good it is to see our buses on the road sporting a green livery similar to that of the old Hants and Dorset company.’’ Xelabus will be officially launched at the Swan Centre, Eastleigh.