PASSENGERS were this morning facing an uncertain commute after a troubled bus company collapsed.

Hampshire firm Velvet announced that it had ceased trading yesterday afternoon.

All 16 drivers and seven administration staff were told their jobs were gone as administrators moved in following months of financial woe for the Eastleigh-based firm.

Andover Advertiser: Black Velvet buses

The company - which traded as Black Velvet Travel - ran eight services across Southampton and Eastleigh.

Last night the firm's managing director Phil Stockley, below, issued a personal apology to passengers.

Andover Advertiser:

He stressed that financial pressures and increased competition meant the company was unable to survive.

Mr Stockley said: “We are very sorry that the company has come to an end in this way.

"The customers and staff have been brilliant and it's been a pleasure serving the people of Hampshire.

“But there are too many bus operators and not enough work to go round.

“Our staff have been fantastic to work with and we are very grateful for the service they've given over the last six years.

Andover Advertiser: Two buses compete for passengers

“We will give them all the help they can to find other jobs.”

Staff received the news at 2pm yesterday - three hours after an emergency meeting between bosses and accountants.

Some finished their rounds but in the confusion others abandoned their routes leaving bewildered passengers waiting at bus stops for more than an hour with other having to call cabs home.

The firm's headquarters in Eastleigh High Street was shut down while drivers were ordered to leave their vehicles in a yard in Millbrook.

Mr Stockley apologised to anyone affected by the cancelled services.

Andover Advertiser: A Velvet bus

Insolvency specialists Chantrey Vellacott DFK said liquidators will be appointed in the coming weeks.

Partner Matthew Fox said: “Despite the best efforts of the company's director Black Velvet Travel has struggled to fill the void of losing a number of major contracts due to increased competition.

“The director has been in talks to sell the company to new owners for some time but talks have repeatedly broken down.

“With no prospect of a sale and debts accumulating the possibility of continuing to trade without major investment is not possible.”

But passengers took to social media to vent their anger.

One said: “Might have been nice of velvet to say none of their busses would be running anymore before I waited at the bus stop for an hour.”

Panel: What now for Velvet passengers?

RIVAL bus companies have stepped in to fill the void left by Velvet's collapse.

Crucially children will be able to get to school after Xelabus agreed to provide services for Thornden School until the end of term.

The firm last night drafted in extra staff to run the X4 service to Hedge End and will take charge of the X7 to Chandlers Ford from last night. Bluestar will now operate Velvet's Southampton services the S1 (Lordshill to Shirley and city centre), S2 (city centre to Freemantle and Shirley), B4 (Bursledon, Sholing, Thornhill and Harfefield to Bitterne) and 502 (Springhill School to city centre and Northam).

The Route A from Southampton to Hedge End has now been taken over by Wheelers but the future of the M service from Eastleigh railway station to Marwell Zoo has yet to be decided.