16 September 2019

First Group Sale–Kernow to Management?

There have been rumours for a while but this is the first time I have seen it in print…

EMBATTLED transport operator First-Group is poised to offload part of its bus business to its own managers amid mounting industry concern of a shakeup by politicians.
A string of management buyouts are said to be the front-runners vying for First's bus operations in Bristol, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. A similar swoop by managers is also being pulled together in East Anglia.
First put its entire UK bus arm up for sale earlier this year, alongside North American coach arm Greyhound, following pressure from its biggest shareholders.
The largest of these, activist Coast Capital Management, launched a campaign over the summer to oust half of the board. While Coast failed to attract majority shareholder support, First's chairman and two other directors would later step down.
Some investors want the company to also exit UK rail and concentrate on more profitable operations in the US.
FirstGroup's plans to put its UK bus operations on the market were revealed after the earlier sale of part of its sprawling Manchester operation to rival Go-Ahead.
The bus industry remains fearful of tighter regulation across major cities. Andy Burnham, the Manchester mayor, has already announced plans to run bus services using a franchise model. Others considering similar plans include Liverpool, Sheffield, Cambridge and Peterborough.
As a result, one industry source said: "No one has much enthusiasm for buying bus companies."
A First spokesman said: "There are a number of potential outcomes for the separation of First Bus from the group and we are pursuing these options. Although we do not comment on market rumours or speculation, it would be incorrect at this stage to say any one outcome is more likely than another."

Daily Telegraph, The/The Sunday Telegraph (London, England) (Published as Sunday Telegraph, The (London, England)) - September 15, 2019

First Kernow 33242 at Lands End on service A1

© Teggers419 (cc)

As always we will have to wait and see what actually happens…


  1. Oakleys have ex Southern Vectis HW54 BUA running 9n the 59

  2. It's a shame this could not have happened before they sold up in Plymouth. Being run locally could have had a totally different result.

  3. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens, however, the franchise model won't catch on, Cornwall had rumors of it, nothing's happened and probably won't happen either! If this sale does go through, I wouldn't be surprised to see Stagecoach and Go Ahead try to take some parts of the network of their hands. I just wonder how long an independant Cornish bus company could last, when it's still operating some clacked out dogs from across the First network.

    1. There has been some decent investment over the last few years, bringing the fleet age up. I feel that Kernow is in a better shape, fleet wise, than a number of other First companies - some not very far away !

    2. I have heard rumors that Go-Ahead here in Plymouth is interested in the Cornwall franchise, I would usually ignore things like this but given the finacial situation it wouldn't surprise me. I certainly hope First remain but no matter the outcome it will be very interesting, particulary to the Go Cornwall Bus area if these Go-Ahead rumors are true!

    3. There is no franchise. Just a set of tenders

  4. Cornwall Council does have the power to franchise but it stated when it was give that power that it did not intend to use it. Unlike some other counties, Cornwall has always preferred to work with operators and discuss the pattern of services - rather than dictate from the centre. In my view, that has resulted in a overall good level of service, especially for a largely rural county.

  5. I have been told by Richard Stevens that he has acquired 15 Truro College routes. Start date is TBC

  6. 50% of Cornwall's network is tendered. The rest is run commercially: no franchise, no tenders. Been like that since 1986.


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