A BUS company has announced a new 10-year deal to operate the city’s university service.

Go-Ahead Group, who own Bluestar, will continue to run the Unilink scheme until at least 2028.

Bus bosses say it follows an intensive tender process to find an operator for the service, which Bluestar has run since 2008.

Andrew Wickham, managing director of Bluestar, said: “To have been awarded this tender is a huge privilege.

“Our team is very much looking forward to continuing our excellent relationship with the university over the coming years.

“Since 2008, we have worked closely with our counterparts at the University of Southampton to provide high quality bus services linking its campuses to other key areas of the city.

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to further enhance our offering here.”

As part of the new contract, Bluestar bosses say there are no immediate plans to make major changes to the current network.

However, they say the current network has evolved over the last nine years and they anticipate changes will be made over time.

One significant change will be the introduction of 32 lower-emission double decker buses - replacing the current mix of single and double deckers.

Bluestar say this will increase the capacity of its Unilink fleet.

Mr Wickham said: “We are looking to the future and have placed an order for 32 brand new buses to join our Unilink fleet in Southampton.

“The vehicles carry the very latest Euro 6 engines - underlining our commitment to helping lower emissions in and around the city.”

University of Southampton transport manager, Adam Tewkesbury, added: “Unilink has been a real success for the University.

“We are delighted to continue working with Bluestar to develop new innovations for our passengers over the next contract period.”

Bluestar currently operates five routes as part of its Unilink service – including the U1N, which runs on Friday nights between Oceana nightclub and Eastleigh.

The routes mainly provide links between the city centre and the various University of Southampton centres, including its main Highfield Campus.

However some routes also service Southampton General Hospital and the Royal South Hants Hospital in Bevois Valley.

Although the services are aimed at students, who have access to travel cards and 90 day tickets, the buses are open to all passengers.

A single ticket is a flat rate at £2 single or a day rider is £3.50.

It comes weeks after the Daily Echo reported First Bus is to cut its 12 service in the new year, blaming “declining patronage”.

It will cease on January 20 and is the second service First has cut in the Coxford area in less than six months.