BLUESTAR has announced plans to step-in and cover a hospital bus route after a rival company controversially announced proposals to axe the service.

The transport operator hopes to extend its Bluestar 7 route to include areas which will be cut off when First Southampton scraps its Number 12 in January.

Announcing the plans, Andrew Wickham, Bluestar’s managing director, said: “We have to listen to the views of local people about their requirements for travelling across Southampton.“Our response is to enhance our services wherever possible. “In this case, we’re working closely with Southampton City Council to preserve services for customers living along a large part of the number 12 route - particularly since another operator is ceasing some of its operations in this area.”

Subject to approval by the city’s traffic commissioner, Bluestar will extend its seven service from Sunday, January 21 and will follow the same route as First’s 12, which will be axed from Saturday, January 20. The new bus route will be the only service in Oakley Road, Cumbrian Way and Coxford Road.

Mr Wickham added: “In early February, we will alter the route slightly - to service Lords Hill Way, rather than Aldermoor Road. Our customers won’t lose out because the Bluestar 17 service already covers that area. “Our aim, throughout this exercise, has been to minimise the impact of change on our customers.“We welcome the opportunity to prove our commitment to ensuring comprehensive bus operations across Southampton and look forward to bringing our new route to the city in January.”

The new Bluestar 7 will run every 30 minutes, with early evening and Sunday services.

However the company says it is yet to finalise its timetable for the new service.

The announcement comes after the Echo revealed last week that First planned to scrap its Number 12 route, leaving residents in Milbrook without a nearby bus service to Southampton General Hospital.

At the time, hospital bosses and civic chiefs announced their “disappointment” at the decision.

However, Rui Marcelino, sustainable travel and transport manager at UHS, said he was pleased with Bluestar’s intervention.He said: “We are delighted this service is going to continue as it means people from a large area of the city will not now suffer the inconvenience of a lack of public transport to our site.

“We would like to thank our colleagues at Bluestar and Southampton City Council for working with us to find a quick resolution to this issue.”