A MAJOR bus company has announced a complete overhaul of its services in and around Southampton.

First Bus has come up with new routes and variations and given some old routes new numbers in a bid to simplify the network and attract more passengers.

Company chiefs are promising more regular buses and quicker routes for some journeys by getting more miles out of their vehicles and hiring 26 new drivers.

The plans are currently being finalised but the Daily Echo can reveal the changes will include: n Some cross city journeys being restored so passengers can travel between Weston, Shirley and Lordshill and from Bitterne or Harefield to the General Hospital.

n More frequent and better coordinated services on some routes n More services at evenings and weekends.

n Improved links to Hedge End and Locks Heath with a new service going to Portsmouth.

First Bus claim that by combining old routes and creating new ones none of the old journeys are being scrapped when the changes come into effect from April 29.

Some roads currently on old routes will be missed off but more passengers are expected to get closer access to bus stops.

Roadshow Matt Kitchin, manager for the Hampshire and Dorset region, is inviting worried bus users to a roadshow information day being held after the new route map is completed in the coming weeks.

“Route numbers are changing and that will initially cause some confusion but they are changing to make it easier to remember,” he said.

“We are reintroducing cross city routes, which is something customers have asked us to do.”

Over six months of planning bus chiefs looked at research into footfall, customer feedback and consulted with their drivers and they are looking to increase services to shopping centres.

Mr Kitchin said the company was hoping to provide travel solutions for the future.

He said: “This is about investment being put in to make buses more attractive and better.

“The city is going to grow and this is us stepping up to the plate.”

Marc Reddy, regional commercial and business growth director, said the routes have been designed to make buses easier and more appealing.

He said: “Research tells us that people want to use public transport, seeing it as a sustainable and more environmentally friendly alternative to using private cars for instance, but we also know that for some people the idea of using the bus can seem incredibly complicated, and in some respects the current network simply doesn’t reflect the way people want to travel around the city.”

Don Harper, secretary of the Southampton pensioner’s forum, gave a tentative welcoming to the routes, hoping they do result in increased services and better cross city routes.

He said: “One of the problems we’ve got at the moment is getting into the town centre from outer lying districts like Thornhill and Millbrook.

“So this might be a good idea “If the buses are going to the hospital through the right places then it will look good.”