First Bus has announced plans to withdraw all services in Southampton.
The company which currently runs nine services across the city has blamed the pandemic for 'insufficient demand'.
In a statement the firm said it's been working hard to turn the business around, but that operations haven't been sustainable for considerable time, and it proposes to withdraw all CityRed services in Southampton from February 19 2023.
It said it is working to support its people as 'a priority' and will try to transfer workers to alternative employment within the business including two depots in the Solent area.
Simon Goff, Managing Director for First South said: “We are extremely disappointed to have to take this decision to close our Southampton depot and withdraw all services from the city.
“The proposals to close the depot should not in any way detract from the commitment of our colleagues in Southampton, who have worked tirelessly to provide the best possible service to the local community against the backdrop one of the most challenging situations ever to face the transport industry.
“This isn’t a process that we have entered into lightly. Lower customer numbers post-covid, rising costs, changes in travel patterns and insufficient demand for the number of buses operating in the city’s competitive market have all added extra pressure. This has led to this difficult decision being taken and meant the business is simply no longer sustainable.
“We will continue to operate our services as usual until 19 February, working closely with our local stakeholders to demonstrate our commitment to continue delivering for our customers for the remainder of our time in service to the Southampton community.”
Councillor Eammon Keogh, Cabinet Member for Transport and District Regeneration said “City Red’s announcement that they are withdrawing their services from Southampton from 18 February 2023 has come as a real disappointment and shock.
"As a Council we know that bus travel is an important and valued travel option in Southampton, which is why we have been supporting local bus operators, including First Bus, to support some of their most at-risk routes. This includes, funding to make bus travel cheaper with the 5 for £5 group bus fare and £1 evening bus fare schemes, as well as subsidising the CR9 and CR13.
"I want to reassure Southampton residents and businesses that we will be working closely with First Bus and the other bus operators in the city to keep any disruption to a minimum and to ensure we have an effective and efficient city-wide bus service in 2023 and beyond.
"It will be an opportunity to work with community groups in affected areas, giving local people the chance to help shape the future of bus services in Southampton and rebuild a sustainable and connected network ensuring it meets our needs.”
Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: "Unite will be providing ongoing support for members at First Bus' Southampton depot at this difficult time. We will begin consultations with the company tomorrow to ensure the interests of the workforce are prioritised."