FirstBus depot closure plans
FirstBus has announced proposals to close three of its smaller depots: Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hereford and Bracknell later this year. Under the proposals, which are subject to consultation, Bracknell will close on 28 August. Some routes will be retained but will operate from First’s depot in Slough, including Greenline services to London and Legoland services. The operator proposes to close Hereford and Newcastle-under-Lyme depots on 5 September. In Hereford, 3,500 passengers per day travel with First and therefore the company plans to withdraw completely from the area.
In the Potteries, FirstBus proposes to combine its Newcastle under Lyme and Stoke Adderley Green Depots. First remains committed to running a significant fleet in the area in the long term and will remain a major employer, but believes operating two depots in such close proximity is no longer a viable option. In both Bracknell and Hereford, given the volume of other bus operators in the area, it is confident that customers shouldn’t be left without a service. In the wake of challenging local economies, reductions in external funding and insufficient passenger demand, ‘difficult decisions had to be reached’ in order to sustain the long term future of its local businesses.
First has started the collective consultation process with trade unions on the possibility of redundancies at all three depots. A combined 222 jobs would be ‘at risk’. First said that it will support any employee who would wish to transfer to other First operations. In addition, many colleagues in Bracknell will have opportunities to transfer to the Slough depot, Reading Buses or the new operator of Bracknell Forest Council’s contracted services. Employees affected by the proposals amount to around 1% of the total number of First Bus employees across the UK.
MD of First Bus, Giles Fearnley, said, ‘In 2012 we launched our transformation plan which has seen great success in a huge number of our local businesses, as we reported at our full year results earlier in June. We continue to see passenger and revenue growth across the business and we have a wide range of actions to be implemented throughout this year to further benefit our customers and maintain growth. However, despite all the hard work, we have been unable to make the progress we were seeking in Bracknell, Hereford and in some parts of the Potteries. Whilst these proposals are disappointing, we simply must ensure our local businesses are on a sustainable and solid footing in order that we maintain the momentum of change toward meeting our medium term financial targets and therefore protect jobs in the long term. Regrettably, we see no alternative, but to close these depots.’