Today, route 67 connects Winchester with Petersfield, serving many villages along the way. It is currently a through route operated by Velvet with most journeys being subsidised by Hampshire County Council.
Extract from Hampshire County Council's bus map
But Velvet are pulling the route as of 12th May. This is the notice on their website:
What happens next? Stagecoach have chosen to run a few commercial journeys, but only on schooldays and only between Winchester and West Meon Hut. Maybe they were gambling that Hampshire County Council would give the (for now) temporary contract for the rest of the route to them. If so, it hasn't paid off for anyone. HCC have awarded the contract for the rest of the route to Xelabus.
This contract is for full journeys for much of the time, including Sunday journeys funded by the South Downs National Park, a big step forward for the route. But it has to leave gaps for Stagecoach's commercial weekday service, which only covers part of the route. This means through passengers on most daytime journeys on weekdays will need to switch at West Meon Hut between a Stagecoach and a Xelabus. The new situation is explained very clearly by Velvet and Xelabus, both coincidentally based in Eastleigh.
This is from Velvet's advice PDF:
So Stagecoach tickets will be accepted by Xelabus, but Xelabus tickets won't be accepted on Stagecoach. If competition legislation is the cause of this situation, surely it's time that legislation was changed.
A schoolday passenger from Petersfield will now need to pay Xela to get to West Meon Hut and then pay again on the Stagecoach bus in order to continue towards Winchester, certainly costing more than if they could get one through bus. There's no multi-operator ticket to fall back on: Solent Travelcard's zone excludes the 67's route.
Philip Blair, Xelabus's Managing Director has acknowledged on our sister blog, Southampton Bus Update, that the situation isn't ideal, but highlighted that Xelabus will be accepting return tickets issued by both Stagecoach and Brijan Tours (who operate the 17 service, two days a week between Petersfield and Bishops Waltham via West Meon).
This situation occurs against a general background of Velvet withdrawing routes, with Xelabus stepping in to replace them. Xelabus were ready to buy Velvet back in March, but pulled out at the last minute. Read the full story on that episode over on Southampton Bus Update.
The state of the 67 could well change again from 30th August, as the contract between HCC and Xelabus is only temporary.