A RAFT of changes to bus routes in and around Andover have been agreed – but their introduction will be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes were agreed earlier this month when the county council approved the awarding of a number of new contracts following the recent area re-tendering.

It means that the number 2 bus service will cease to operate and instead be encompassed by the number 13 route.

Other services will be reduced, or in some cases removed, however a new number 9 service will be introduced serving Floral Way and Andover bus station.

The new arrangements were set to come into effect on April 6.

However, this will no longer be the case with Stagecoach set to introduce a revised bus timetable as of March 30 to “reflect the significant reduction in passengers travelling” amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The changes themselves were agreed earlier this month when Hampshire County Council’s (HCC) executive member for economy, transport and environment, Councillor Rob Humby, approved a report detailing a number of amendments.

The report read: "It is proposed that the 13 service encompasses most of the existing 2 service. This would maintain an hourly frequency of service for the areas served.

"It is proposed that the 10 service maintains the existing timetable and route with a slight alteration in route to encompass River Way and Pilgrims Way.

"It is proposed that a new service 9 is introduced, providing a two-hourly service between Floral Way and Andover Bus Station. This was previously served by both the 15 and 17 service.

"It is proposed that the 14 service is withdrawn as this service runs in parallel with Stagecoach’s commercial 6 service. The 14 currently operates at a 20-minute frequency, and the 6 at a half hour frequency. This meets the County Council’s objectives in enabling viable commercial services to operate wherever possible."

Similar timetables will be maintained for the number 5 and number 7 routes, with ‘small alterations’ to made to improve timekeeping and better integrates the service with others in the area.

The number 12 service, however, will be reduced to a two-hourly service due to low demand.

The number 15 (Andover to Stockbridge) and number 17 (Andover to the Wallops) routes will see one less outbound journey between Monday and Friday, while the number 16 (Stockbridge to Winchester) will be “improved both in terms of its timings and the number of journey opportunities offered”.

Cllr Humby’s decision record read: “Approval to award new contracts will continue to give access to employment, education, health, retail and leisure facilities for the widest section of the community.”

The changes will not, however, be implemented as planned on April 6, with revised timetables set to be in place as passenger journeys fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Humby explained: “The contracts for existing Andover bus services expire on April 5 and, therefore, the new arrangements will need to come into effect from April 6, 2020 as planned.

“However, due to the current Coronavirus crisis, Stagecoach will be operating a limited, revised timetable on all their services as of Monday, March 30, 2020, to reflect the significant reduction in passengers travelling on them.

“As soon as the revised timetables are available, the county council and Stagecoach will publicise them. Up to date information on changes to bus services in Hampshire can be found online at https://www.hants.gov.uk/transport/publictransport/changes-to-bus-services.

“I must also remind people to follow Government requirements in that people must stay at home to help prevent the virus spreading and only leave the house to: shop for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible; One form of basic exercise; Any medical need, or to provide help to a vulnerable person; Travel to and from work where it is absolutely necessary and the work cannot be done from home.

“More information is available on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.”