Gatwick Airport is spending more than £1 million sponsoring a new bus service for its workers.

The service will run for two years to encourage airport staff to leave their cars at home. It will be operated by Metrobus, part of the Go-Ahead group, which is one of the largest transport operators in the country with a turnover of about £500 million a year.

The new service starts in May and will link Broadfield, Bewbush, Gossops Green, Manor Royal, Gatwick and Horley. There will be a fleet of six buses running every 20 minutes, 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Fares will be the same as current services.

Gatwick strategy and planning director Alastair McDermid said: "Road congestion and its effect on the environment are issues that face us and we are committed to trying to encourage the 28,000 staff who work at Gatwick to use public transport more and private cars less.

"Around one third of the total airport workforce live in the Crawley and Horley areas and the new bus service will provide the timing, frequency and comfort they need in order to change their travel-to-work habits."

Keith Moffatt, Go-Ahead development director, said they were delighted to have been chosen to provide the service. The company runs nearly 20 per cent of London bus services as well as the Brighton and Hove Bus Company. It also operates the Thameslink train service, linking Gatwick with London and Brighton.

The service will follow one of the routes of the FastWay £24 million rapid bus transport system planned for the area - a futuristic system that allows buses to travel in their own lane between raised kerbs.

The Metrobus service will continue until FastWay is on track, after which it will be reviewed. West Sussex highways committee chairman Coun David Dewdney said: "The introduction of this route will be beneficial when planning the new FastWay system. This represents the first stage of a real improvement to bus services for Crawley, Gatwick Airport and Horley."

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