COMMERCIAL buses in Southampton completed 750,000 more miles last year than they did in 2013, new figures have revealed.

That’s the equivalent of 30 trips around the equator, according to the statistics.

But the number of subsidised miles completed by buses has tumbled by more than 60 per cent over the same period.

City civic chiefs say this could be down to the reduction in the number of pensioners using subsidised bus passes.

But Andrew Wickham, managing director of Go South Coast, which runs city services Bluestar and Unilink, says it could be down to the success of commercial services.

He said: “Recently, statistics in Southampton showed bus journeys had gone up from 18 million in 2009 to 21 million in 2017.

“With the improvements we have made and the increase in our services, I think that shows Bluestar is going great guns.”

On subsidies, Mr Wickham added: “There haven’t been many subsidised routes in Southampton in years.

“We don’t welcome a reduction in subsidies but we know that councils don’t have much money.

“Instead we work in partnership with the city council to improve our services.”

The figures, from the BBC’s data unit, show commercial buses in Southampton completed more than 6.11 million miles of travel in 2016/17.

That’s almost 750,000 more than the 5.37 million in 2013/14.

Meanwhile, the number of miles completed by subsidised services dropped from 320,000 in 2013/14 to just 120,000 in 2016/17.

Southampton City Council leader, Simon Letts, said this could be due to a reduction in pensioners using their free bus passes.

He said: “We haven’t subsidised major routes in a long time.

“We do subsidise small routes, but these are only for small ‘hopper’ buses and mostly in the east of the city.

“I think fewer older people are using their bus passes now and that could be a factor.

“I also think it it down to the fact that more younger people are using buses.

“The University of Southampton and Go South Coast have worked together with the Unilink and give away free bus passes to first year students.

“This helps the university because it stops students clogging up the campus with their cars.”

The picture is similar in Hampshire, where the number of miles completed by subsidised buses has also taken a tumble.

Across the county, there were 1.2 million fewer subsidised bus miles in 2016/17 than in 2013/14 – a drop of around 33 per cent.

There were however 750,000 more commercial miles made in Hampshire over the same period.

County council chiefs were unavailable for comment last night.

The report comes just weeks after Bluestar launched its new look Seven service, which will now cover Lordshill, Millbrook, Southampton General Hospital and the city centre.

The company say it will fill the void left behind by First Southampton’s 12 service, which the company axed last month due to declining patronage.