Surf on South Hampshire buses with free Wi-Fi
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Passengers with internet enabled smart phones, tablets or laptops travelling on local bus services in South Hampshire will soon be able to surf the web, catch up with emails and homework, shop online, book tickets for local attractions or check journey times on the move.
Free Wi-Fi being rolled out this month
Free Wi-Fi on local buses is being rolled out from this month (August) thanks to a successful £4.5 million bid by Transport for South Hampshire (TfSH) to the Department for Transport's £50 million Better Bus Area Fund. Together with additional investment from bus operators in the area - including Black Velvet Travel, First, Go South Coast (which includes Bluestar, Uni-link, and Wilts & Dorset) and Stagecoach - this bid is helping to fund a £7.3 million project to improve the quality of bus travel in South Hampshire.
Chairman of Transport for South Hampshire, Councillor Mel Kendal, said:
"By the end of August the first phase of work to install free Wi-Fi on buses across South Hampshire will have been completed for services in Southampton and the surrounding area, including parts of Test Valley, Winchester, Eastleigh and the Waterside. The second phase this autumn will see the programme rolled out in the south east of the county, including Portsmouth. Free Wi-Fi is just one of a range of initiatives we are working on with bus operators to improve bus travel in South Hampshire. We believe that by improving the overall passenger experience, this will encourage more people to travel by bus - and this, in turn, will help to stimulate the local economy.
"This investment, added to other successful bids for Local Sustainable Transport Funding for this area, will bring significant transport improvements for all forms of road-based travel. Attracting new customers and encouraging people to leave their cars at home will help save them money by avoiding high fuel costs, boost their fitness levels and help them develop a more active lifestyle. As more and more people switch to alternative ways of travelling, we should start to see some positive benefits such as gradual reductions in traffic volumes, allowing the local economy to grow so that more jobs are created.
"Investment in other improvements such as refurbished buses, better lighting onboard and 'smart' card ticketing systems represents a comprehensive package that will help make sustainable transport a more attractive alternative and encourage people to switch from their cars."
Councillor Asa Thorpe, cabinet member for environment and transport, Southampton City Council, said:
"As if the environmental argument for public transport wasn't compelling enough, now passengers can use local buses as a mobile office while they travel. Given the choice of dead time stuck in traffic or a chance to catch up on banking, social networking and emails on the bus, this new service should lead to a good uptake of people wanting to travel smarter and take the bus in Southampton and across southern Hampshire."
Speaking on behalf of the South Hampshire Bus Operators Association (SHBOA), the Managing Director of Black Velvet Travel Ltd, Phil Stockley, commented:
"This region benefits from a strong culture of partnership between bus operators and local authorities. Free WiFi on-board is just the first of many examples of how the open-minded exchange of ideas, inspiration and innovation is bringing real benefits for bus passengers in the area."
In addition to the provision of free Wi-Fi, plans for improving bus travel in South Hampshire include:
- Wi-Fi installed in 565 buses
- the refurbishment of 137 buses, including new wooden-effect flooring and upholstery for seats
- providing next stop audio visual systems
- communication tags at bus stops providing up to date bus timetable information via smart phones
- customer training for bus drivers
- and LED lighting which will significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Transport for South Hampshire was established in 2007 and brings together, as a formal, joint committee, the local transport authorities of Hampshire County Council, the Isle of Wight Council and Portsmouth and Southampton City Councils, transport operators and Government agencies.
The cost of the Wi-Fi project is £900,000 over two years with the bus operators picking up the ongoing costs after that time. The remainder of the £4.5 million funding will be used to deliver the other projects (outlined above) as part of a comprehensive package to improve the quality of bus travel in South Hampshire.