AS the conductor rang the bell and shouted “Hold tight please!” the people of Winchester were transported to a different age for one last time.

The last of the New Year Winchester buses running days was an unseasonably wet one but it didn’t keep the spirits down of drivers, conductors and passengers alike.

Heritage buses and coaches dating as far back as the 1950s transported people right across the county to as far north as Sutton Scotney and as far south as Chandler’s Ford on the last New Year’s free service of its kind.

The friends of King Alfred buses donned caps with specialist pins wearing traditional nylon green uniforms, none looking quite so formal as the membership secretary, Stuart Neale, who’s served the buses as a conductor for eight years.

“This was the first bus ever used on a running day back in 1985,” he said, speaking of the 1959 Leyland Tiger Cub with a Weymann body kit.

“The running day is well known in Winchester but popularity is spreading because we get a lot of other buses coming down from other parts of the country. This is the last New Year’s day service we’ll be running mainly due to the loss of the bus station. We’re looking to do more in 2015 but it’s not been confirmed yet.

“It’s a shame really. We are a very happy bunch, we all have so much fun doing it and it’s been running for the last 30 years. 1983 was the first and then it slowly built up to what it is today. It’s the biggest running day in the country.”

Driving alongside was Ian Mamming whose volunteered for the last three years.

“The bus is very refined!” he said. “There’s no power steering but it’s from an era when the motors were dependable. It’s so much more reliable than anything you’d get today.

“This is one the best events of the year. Last year we issued 22,000 tickets but it’s not going to be the same this year and that’s all down to the weather.”

Julie Payne and her daughter, Ava, from Middle Brook Street, said they’ve been using the bus for years.

She said: “I go on this bus every year to go and visit my mum in Stanmore. My stepdad is a part of King Alfred too so all the whole family’s involved.”