02 April 2006

Soap Box Sunday - Waiting for a transformation

"A soapbox is a raised, improvised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. Alternately, the word may be used to describe the box that soap comes in." Wikipedia

As mentioned a day or so ago, First Devon & Cornwall are to face another Public Inquiry. It was not that long ago that they were given a massive fine. One wonders what they will get this time.

Now, it could be expected, if not excused, for a company in such poor financial health to experience operational difficulties. When that company is part of the largest bus group in the country and that large group has just posted this in the opening lines in its latest trading report:

Our UK Bus division has delivered a robust performance against a background of increased costs. We are very encouraged by strong on-bus revenue growth and improved operational performance, reflecting our focus on service quality and efficiency. We have taken a number of actions to mitigate the impact of increased fuel costs and will continue to rigorously manage the business. We are now fully hedged for approximately 38% of our Group fuel consumption for 2006/07.

Then there are less excuses for the poor performance.

Now read Omnibus blog from a few days ago.

There you will read of two other Public Inquiries which led to other, much more profitable First Bus Companies being heavily penalised for poor maintenance.

First obviously takes some pride in its work. It has clearly been doing some things right to be performing so well in some areas. Its rail division has had major success in gaining new contracts. The eyes of the industry are watching developments at York with the first 'ftr' about to hit the road, a concept which certainly seems to be a good idea on paper and is viewed as the future alternative to more expensive rapid transit schemes by the current government.

First Group have a very poor public image. The rail francise which starts this weekend has been greeted with fear and anger down here as its seen as bringing a massive reduction in services. Compare all this with Stagecoach at the moment. You dont see as many negative stories about them at the moment.

First Devon & Cornwall have a new MD now so hopefully things will start to improve soon (although I seem to remember thinking that when Mr Taylor joined us!).

so Come on First... You promised to transform travel, we're still waiting...

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