Currently, if a passenger purchases a ticket with a specific bus company, that ticket is only valid for those buses – even if others travel on a similar route.
But Hampshire County Council is proposing to introduce multi-operator bus tickets, which could allow people to seamlessly travel between First, Stagecoach and Bluestar services, among others.
The plans were put forward as part of the council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, which was approved by Cllr Rob Humby, executive lead member for economy, transport and environment, last week.
Cllr Humby said: "We are fortunate in Hampshire to have a long-standing, strong track record of working closely in partnership with bus operators in our local authority area which, prior to Covid-19, saw the county buck national trends with the number of bus passengers increasing year on year.
"This, together with our investment in schemes such as the Eclipse Bus Rapid Transit scheme between Fareham and Gosport, quality infrastructure like Andover bus station and the use of government funding to provide contactless ticket machines and live, up-to-date passenger information at bus stops, puts us in a really good position for improving services further."
The commitments laid out in these proposals are subject to the county council securing further funding from the Department for Transport, via its Bus Back Better scheme.
At the moment, only SolentGo tickets can be used with different operators.
But passengers seem enthusiastic about the prospect of being able to travel more freely on buses.
Margaret Davis, 72, from North End, said: "I have a bus pass now so it doesn’t affect me anymore, but I remember watching buses go by, knowing that it was going where I wanted to but that I couldn’t get on because my ticket was with a different operator.
"It’s incredibly frustrating so I think it’s an important step to make. It might even get more people using the buses on long-distance journeys too."
Maria Catalina, 43 from Portchester, added: "If you’re going to places like Havant then you have to buy extra tickets to get on different buses.
"To use all the buses I think is a good idea."
Bus operators themselves are also on board with the proposals.
Marc Reddy, managing director of First Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire, said: "First Bus is very supportive of the government’s ambition, outlined in the National Bus Strategy, to improve bus services and increase the number of people travelling by bus across the country.
"We will continue to work with Hampshire County Council to finalise proposals and deliver a compelling offer for customers in Hampshire.
"Multi-operator ticketing has been in place across south Hampshire for over 17 years with the ‘SolentGo’ ticket which allows one ticket to be used across multiple bus operators for travelling on a single day or longer duration. This plan will hopefully expand these options further with a wider range of tickets which can be used across multiple operators.
"We are also very supportive of expanding bus rapid transit routes. The success of our Eclipse service between Fareham and Gosport, in partnership with Hampshire County Council is testament to what can be achieved."
A spokeswoman from Stagecoach South said: "We’re proud of our continued positive partnership with Hampshire County Council and are committed to working together to deliver sustainable, reliable and affordable bus travel in Hampshire.
"We welcome the new BSIP proposal and have been closely involved in its preparation, which has the needs of our local communities at its heart.
"Stagecoach looks forward to working with the council to deliver a step-change in the quality and reliability of bus services in Hampshire, which sees investment in new bus priority measures and ticket simplification with the introduction of tap on/tap off technology."