Solent Blue Line
(Musterphantom Ltd.)
© Colin Parker

    Musterphantom Ltd, trading as Solent Blue Line, was formed by two ex employees of Southampton Citybus, John Chadwick and Peter Shelley. The company was started with capital of £100,000, of which £75,000 was put up by Southern Vectis Omnibus Company Ltd, from the nearby Isle of Wight. SVOC also contributed some old Bristol VRT 's.  Service bus operations started, in Southampton, on 25th May 1987, with three routes, crossing through the city centre and were conductor operated. These routes were in competition with Southampton Citybus, who later brought in some ex London AEC Routemasters, these were also conductor operated, though all Citybus vehicles had previously been one man operated since 1981. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Vectis.

    In April 1987, Stagecoach bought Hampshire Bus from the National Bus Company, including, the former Hants & Dorset, Southampton bus station and depot. They closed the station and depot and sold the site for redevelopment, ( and netted a profit, I understand that the sale raised more than the price paid for Hampshire Bus ! ). Stagecoach approached SBL with a view to selling the "South Hants" part of the business, based in Eastleigh and Southampton, including the vehicles. A deal was concluded on 4th October 1987. Stagecoach retreated to north of an imaginary line drawn just south of Winchester. The day before, SBL had acquired the business and vehicles of Basil Williams' Hants & Sussex operation

    Therefore the fleet had risen, from sixteen ageing VRT`s, to over 115 vehicles, almost overnight. All the Hants & Sussex vehicles were sold on quickly, some eventually ended up back with Basil Williams. Some of the newer VRT's were returned to Hampshire Bus, some moving onwards to United Counties. Some of the VRT's were also transferred to the Southern Vectis main fleet. The Bristol LH6L's went to Trimdown Motor Services Ltd. and some of the Leyland National's were also sold.  The total number in stock settled, by January 1988, to around 85 vehicles.

    New vehicles were added to the fleet, minibuses for the Eastleigh to Winchester service and Leyland Olympians for the Southampton to Winchester service. By 1993, about one third of the fleet had been bought new.

    Some franchised services are run, by vehicles in fleet livery, by Marchwood Motorways from Totton, near Southampton and Brijan Tours, also from the Southampton area. These services are included in the SBL timetable and ticketing systems. These companies pay SBL a proportion of the revenue from these franchised services.

    In November 1998. three Leyland Olympians with East Lancs bodywork were purchased from Wilts & Dorset, they were originally with Plymouth, when new in 1982.