New Forest Tour
|New Forest Tour|
Solent Blue Line's 908 at Exbury Gardens.
|Vehicle||Volvo B7TL/East Lancs Myllennium Vyking Convertible open-top|
|Frequency||Every hour (red and Green routes) and Every hour 1/4 (Blue route)|
The New Forest Tour is an open-top bus service in the New Forest, running three circular routes around Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington, Beaulieu and Exbury Gardens, Ringwood, Fordingbridge, Cadnam and Ashurst and New Milton, Milford on sea, and Burley . It is run by Bluestar and Wilts & Dorset in partnership with Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council and the New Forest National Park Authority.
The tour was set up in 2004 by Solent Blue Line and City Sightseeing. The aim was to get traffic off the roads in and around the New Forest. When started, Solent Blue Line used a Bristol VR on a circular tour around the forest with a bike trailer.
In 2005, the tour continued in a similar form, except the route was reversed to today's anti-clockwise version.
In 2006 Solent Blue Line operated the tour with two nearly-new open-top buses from Wilts & Dorset. This was possible due to a £100,000 payment from Hampshire County Council. With an additional combined £30,000 funding every year for three years from the New Forest District Council and National Park Authority, the tour could run hourly instead of two hourly. The buses were Volvo B7TL/East Lancs Myllenniums, low floor and accessible to wheelchair users. They operated in full Wilts & Dorset livery and fleetnames, with New Forest Tour lettering. The Bike trailer was continued on the updated service, and buses served Exbury Gardens.
In 2007, the association with City Sightseeing was dropped, the 2006 review concluding that marketing should be developed with core funding partners, in a way "appropriate for the New Forest destination". The same buses as used in 2006 were used on the tour this year, which by now Solent Blue Line had acquired from Wilts & Dorset, both being part of Go South Coast. As part of the new marketing, the vehicles were painted in a new green livery with ponies on the side, essentially a green version of Southern Vectis' Island Breezers livery. The Tour's website was launched, and 60,000 leaflets were distributed to over 300 places. An official guide was also launched, given to passengers as they boarded the tour. The buses no longer towed trailers, carrying bicycles on the lower deck instead.
Prior to the 2008 service starting, Solent Blue Line renamed all of its services to run under the Bluestar name. The New Forest Tour remained a separate brand, but details now appear on the Bluestar website. The tour ran from 24 May to 31 August, and the connections to the tour were withdrawn. A professionally recorded commentary was added to the service.
2008 was the final year of the three year funding commitment. In the 2008 review, Bluestar stated that revenue from ticket sales alone do not cover the cost of the current operation. To continue the tour in the same format into 2009 would require a subsidy.
Therefore, a tender exercise is currently being worked on by Hampshire County Council to determine the level of subsidy required. This will allow for any operator to bid for the tender. A number of options are being considered, such as continuing as in 2008, only operating between Wednesdays and Sundays, only operating on the weekend and only using one bus.
The tour did return in 2009, between Saturday 20 June and Sunday 13 September 2009, running a similar service to 2008.
For the 2012 season new GPS commentary was added to the two tours (the red tour was introduced). For 2013 the tours ran between 29 June and 15 September that year. A new blue tour was introduced because of the popularity of the other two tours the previous year. This tour originally ran hourly, but Wilts & Dorset later figured out that they couldn't run it on time on an hourly basis, so they changed the frequency to every hour and 15 mins, still using two buses. The other two routes remained hourly.
- "New Forest Tour: 2008 review and future funding arrangements" (PDF). New Forest National Park Authority. 11 December 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- Solent Blue Line (2007). "The New Forest Tour Official Guide": 2.
- "Double bus boost for New Forest Tour". Hampshire County Council. 1 March 2006. Archived from the original on 20 September 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "Wilts & Dorset Volvo B7TL 408". David Balme. Fotopic. 24 July 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "Go South Coast". Go-Ahead Group. 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "The New Forest Tour – Marketing Action Plan 2008" (PDF). New Forest National Park Authority. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "New Forest Tour: 2007 review" (PDF). New Forest National Park Authority. 6 December 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- "New Forest Tour product marketing plan 2007" (PDF). New Forest National Park Authority. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
- Booth, Gavin (February 2009). "News Summary". Buses Magazine (Buses Focus Supplement) (648): 3.
- "New Forest Tour". Bluestar. 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.