FSW have slowly been bulilding a smart fleet of coaches which originated with First Greyhound operations. The whole batch of these have recently been re-registered with plates you may well recognise:
23313 481FPO (was YN54NYU) White “First Coaches” livery Photo link https://flic.kr/p/GNGCp7
23316 530OHU (was YN55PXG) Dark green FIRST KERNOW livery Photo link https://flic.kr/p/GzG4sX
23317 HVJ716 (was YN55PXH) Dark green FIRST KERNOW livery photolink https://flic.kr/p/HDecZa
23318 NER621 (was YN55PXJ) Blue & Grey Greyhound livery Photolink https://flic.kr/p/FgkH62
23322 OWB243 (was YN06CGV) Blue & Grey Greyhound livery Photolink https://flic.kr/p/DmHNne
23324 YN06CGY Dark green FIRST KERNOW livery https://flic.kr/p/EspUFW
23325 VJT738 (was YN06GCZ) Blue & Grey Greyhound livery Photolink https://flic.kr/p/Ds8MYN
Of course these registrations were formerly on the well known Volvo Olympians that have been part of the Cornish scene for many years now, but were originally brought to Devon & Cornwall for the X80
© Nick Rice: 481FPO was originally N113UHP seen here when 'new' to Plymouth, showing just how smart these buses were.
New Buses for Kernow
In an exclusive interview, First UK Bus MD Giles Fearnley sets out the next steps for the Cornwall, as he announces major investment in 30 new double-deckers for the county. But it’s more than new buses; there’s also a new purpose and a firm commitment to improvement and growth, he reveals. Mel Holley reports
Once on the list of operations to be sold, and historically loss-making, First’s operation in Cornwall once characterised much that was wrong with the ‘old’ First. Now, it is being revitalised and heralds a new way of working with Cornwall Council. A first tangible step of this came in October 2015 when First launched its new-look concept bus at the Cornwall Transport Expo, in a hanger at Newquay Airport, setting out the group’s aspirations for the region. With a new livery and brand, busKernow, it kicked-off a consultation with passengers, partners and stakeholders, ahead of introducing it across Cornwall. A new livery and brand, busKernow, is under development Now, that has been followed up with an announcement of 30 new double-deckers for Cornwall (routeONE, News, 27 April) as part of a national £70m investment.
These are the first new buses that Cornwall’s had for 11 years, following some 05-reg Volvo/Wright Eclipse single-deckers. It has also had ‘nearly new’ buses: seven of the London 2012 Olympics double-decker order, which came via Plymouth’s park-and-ride service, to serve Falmouth University, by when they were a year old.But, says First UK Bus MD Giles Fearnley of the new order: “This is a substantial number”
When delivered during this summer the new buses will go onto the principle trunk commercial service - Truro-Redruth-Camborne-St Ives/Penzance - converting it from single to double-decker. Says Giles: “This is because of the growth we’ve seen and the further growth potential we believe there is. It’s also a classic route through the middle of Cornwall for sightseers, holiday tourists and so forth.
At the time, it was announced that Cornwall would “take over responsibility for franchising bus services by 2018,” making it the first rural unitary authority to gain this power. “The key word is stability. They want confidence in their bus operators. They don’t want to be landed with a problem. And they accept that fair returns need to be made. The council was named as having intermediate body status under the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund, allow it to select projects from April 2016. Since then, the Council has said it is not looking to use its franchising powers, but is now looking to partnership, although what that might look like is currently loose - there’s no formal agreement yet “There is a lot work behind the scenes,” says Giles. “The council’s particular aspiration - which we wholly support - is that we and the county has a truly integrated network in terms of customer-facing matters from December 2018.”
This is when the Cornish main line will have been resignalled and new timetable - including new trains - comes in, with two trains per hour on the Plymouth-Penzance main line. This has been committed to by GWR under its direct franchise award from the Department for Transport (DfT). It won’t be even headway, as some trains will be limited stop, others all-stops, but it “will significantly enhance the rail offer across Cornwall,” adds Giles. “The aspiration is that at that stage we have a truly integrated network in terms of buses serving rail stations with sensible connections, (last bus, first bus and through the day).” There will also be common ticketing, information and other ‘joined up’ areas.
The network map shows that First serves much of the region, using around 200 vehicles in the summer (there is a seasonal uplift). A substantial number of these operate on contracted and tendered services. There is, for example, a network of 35 buses running from literally all corners, into Truro college, bringing students from right across Cornwall. Then there’s the core commercial network, plus a very extensive tendered network and contracted operation. First has two principal depots at Camborne and Summercourt (the former Western greyhound depot, which First has bought outright) where the majority of the engineering is carried out, and number of significant sized outstations, some with depot facilities at Truro, Penzance, Falmouth and Bodmin. There are small outstations at Newquay and Bude.
First has historically lost substantial sums of money in its accounts on its Cornish operations. Says Giles: “It’s turned around dramatically. We moved into profit about 18 months ago, and while we still have further to go, partly because we’ve invested very heavily in the business because we believe in long term, it is now a profitable business.”
Last autumn’s Cornwall Transport Expo with a rail carriage and a bus on display marked GWR’s launch. “It was us, as FirstGroup, coming together to show we are really one group that can work together. “We had one vehicle in a GWR type livery as a prototype and that livery has now advanced and we be shortly launching the final livery. This will demonstrate that we are hand-in-glove with our rail colleagues.