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Bus around the forest

Tourists swap cars for buses as passenger numbers rise in the UK's New Forest

Passenger numbers for New Forest buses are at an all-time high as visitors and residents swap their cars for green transport.

The seasonal Beach Bus and open-top New Forest Tour are enjoying busy summers thanks to new stops and discount offers, improved ferry links and a largely dry summer.

Both services are run by operators More bus and Bluestar in partnership with the New Forest National Park Authority, as part of a Department for Transport (DfT) funded campaign to encourage more people to travel without a car in the National Park.

Twice as many people caught the Beach Bus in its first week (26 July to 1 August) compared to the same period last year, with 1,552 passengers in 2014 compared to 719 in 2013.

The daily summer service, from Hythe to Lepe, Beaulieu and Lymington, has proved popular with visitors and residents thanks to great value tickets and a free ferry link from Southampton. Passengers also enjoy 20% discounts at attractions like Buckler's Hard as well as free ice creams at Lepe beach.

Last year a record 40,600 passengers hopped on the open-top's three routes around the National Park during its 11-week season.

Numbers for the green route around the south east of the New Forest are significantly higher thanks to a new link with Hythe Ferry, whilst the red route in the north of the Forest has benefited from new stops at New Forest Wildlife Park and Longdown Activity Farm near Ashurst. The timetable for the blue route along the south coast has also been revised so all three routes run eight times a day, seven days a week.

Edward Heron, Deputy Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: 'These figures show that by providing a better experience, better value and regular services you can encourage visitors and residents to swap their cars for greener forms of transport.

'The New Forest Tour and Beach Bus also help to protect the fragile landscapes of the National Park by reducing congestion and carbon emissions, as well as providing a boost to local businesses. Last year the New Forest Tour saved around 223,000 private car miles and contributed an estimated £660,000 to the local economy.'

Andrew Wickham, Managing Director of operators More bus and Bluestar, said: 'We're very pleased with the summer we've had so far. The new link for the New Forest Tour with Hythe Ferry has been particularly popular as people ferry across from Southampton rather than driving their cars.'

The Beach Bus and New Forest Tour are supported in part by a £3.8m sustainable transport fund from the UK's Department for Transport (DfT), shared with the South Downs National Park. The aim is to encourage 370,000 people to get out of their cars and use greener transport by the end of March 2015.

The Beach Bus runs until 31 August. For more information visit www.thebeachbus.info, www.facebook.com/ridethebeachbus and www.twitter.com/ridethebeachbus.

The New Forest Tour's three routes run until 14 September. For more information and a 10% online discount visit http://www.thenewforesttour.info, http://www.facebook.com/newforesttour and http://www.twitter.com/newforesttour

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