OPEN top bus rides will return to Southend to showcase its tourist hotspots.

The hop-on-hop-off service will connect the central seafront area with Leigh.

The number 68 route will run from Monday, July 24 to Sarurday, September 2 - and if the trial period proves successful the buses could one again become a regular sight.

The service, being operated by Go Ahead London, will run in a circuit to and from Southend Pier. It will take in the Kursaal, Westcliff Palmeira Arches for the cafes, Chalkwell Shelter and Chalkwell Station.

It will travel to Leigh, stopping at the Ship pub for Bell Wharf Beach and then onto Leigh train station and Leigh Broadway

A spokesman for Go Ahead London, said: “We are delighted to reintroduce this iconic open top service along Southend Seafront and hope that local residents and visitors to Southend will take the opportunity to breeze along with us during this trial period.”

Open top buses have a long history in the seaside town.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy in Southend, said: “I’m delighted that a private operator is investing in a new tourist service, which will make it easier for visitors to explore the many attractions in the west of our borough when they visit the Golden Mile.

“The open-top bus service will be a visitor attraction in its own right and will directly benefit business in Westcliff, Chalkwell and Leigh by delivering customers to their door.

“We have highlighted the importance of improving transport links in the tourist strategy that we are developing with the Southend Tourism Partnership, so it brings me great pleasure to see this service coming online for the summer holidays.”

A regular summer open top service ran along Southend seafront since before the Second World War. The routing of the service, which changed several times, ran from Highlands Thames Drive, Leigh, and along the seafront under the pier past the Kursaal and on to Shoebury East Beach - covering more than seven miles.

Eastern National and Stephensons of Essex operated the open top service under the number 67, while Southend Corporation Transport operated the service under the number 68. While the routes differed slightly, both serviced the Pier and the Kursaal.

After struggling to keep the service running profitably Stephensons held a Farewell to Open Top Buses Day on Sunday, June 5, 2005.

The Fares for the relaunched service, which are cash only, are £4 for an adult day ticket, £3 for an adult return and £2 for a single ticket.