A reverse move for First

Saturday 2nd July 2022

First Bus has announced a major shake up of the management structure of its subsidiary companies which will cut costs particularly senior managers and overheads. It’s a laudable aim as Government Covid financial support comes to an end in a couple of months time and with passenger numbers still 80% of ‘normal’ expectations a raft of cuts to services is inevitable in the autumn.

But, oh dear, oh dear, if rampant inflation and industrial unrest are taking us back to the bad old days of the 1970s, First’s proposed reorganisation has all the hallmarks of recreating the disastrous period for the Group in the 1990s when management became ever more remote from operations on the ground due to completely unworkable mergers of the company’s operating areas along with centralised edicts and overbearing control.

And here we go again.

The proposals include merging the managements of First in the South West with First in Dorset, Hampshire and Berkshire. South Wales will be added to the West of England (which is Bristol and environs) as well as Worcester being thrown in for good measure. Essex and East Anglia are back together again to form East of England – as they were run as one until it didn’t work last time round so were split up. Midlands (ie Leicester and the Potteries) already under common management with South Yorkshire following the last relatively recent reorganisation will have Manchester added in as well (albeit that’s now down to one depot and soon to be franchised too, so could disappear altogether – or on the other hand expand dramatically). West Yorkshire gets York back again, while Scotland remains as one unit as it has been since Aberdeen was added to Glasgow and Livingston a while ago, well why not, they’re in the same nation. There’s no indication where Ireland’s Aircoach network fits in.

I love the way the ‘New Business Units’ are described as “Local”!!

It could have been worse. In the last period when big regional companies under ‘simplified management’ were regarded as the best way to run what we all know are very much local businesses dependent for success on local knowledge and local relationships with partners and stakeholders, one poor hapless managing director at First Bus had to control an area stretching from Penzance via Bristol round to Porthcawl and Haverfordwest as well as across to Portsmouth. Now, Penzance through to Slough will be a thing (a mere 285 miles apart) albeit without Bristol this time, but the cinch of running a small network such as Bristol (irony alert) will be supplemented by adding in Worcester, Bridgend, Swansea, the Valleys and Haverfordwest – only a snip of 170 miles between them.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a dinosaur, an armchair critic, an out of touch grumpy old retired busman or someone obsessed about the past and not in touch with the future but ….. this proposal is simply wrong in every respect.

There’s the usual load of verbiage justifying it in an announcement from Janette Bell – managing director of First Bus – to her senior team stating “by consolidating 10 Senior Leadership Teams of various size and reshaping into 6 more balanced Local Business Units we will also be able to strengthen our leadership capability and create local businesses that have the right level of resources to be sustainable”.

I beg to disagree Janette. All the experience shows the more remote your managing directors (sorry, “Senior Leadership Teams“) are from their local areas where buses are running, staff are employed and partners and stakeholders live and work the less effective the bus networks are and a downward spiral of passenger loss and service reductions (and profits) becomes inevitable. Far from “strengthen our leadership capability” it will weaken it to the point of making it unfit for purpose.

Exactly as was found when this was tried before in the 1990s.

According to the letter to colleagues “this is not a process to simply cut roles or reduce cost, far from it…….this is about creating six new businesses that are ready to lead us into the future, with confidence and clear expectations”.

It won’t.

And just to show how homogenised it’ll all be “to set each of the Local Business Units up for success, they will also have a standardised Leadership Team structure, to improve decision making and provide clarity on roles and responsibilities”.

This claptrap is straight out of the business school theory of management efficiency beloved of external management consultants who know nothing about how best to run buses and who’ve no doubt been working on these proposals for months at eye watering fees that now have to be justified by reducing the headcount of productive managers (who do know about running buses) and their costs.

The proposals are currently being consulted on “with our leaders who may be affected by these changes so they have a chance to share their thoughts on the plans and express their personal preferences”.

Yeah, right. So your future career at First Bus depends on speaking out and telling it how it is on these ridiculous and unworkable proposals. I don’t think so somehow, not least as there are 10 “Leadership roles” morphing into six!

I do hope the consultants haven’t looked around and decided Arriva’s slimmed down management structure overseeing local operations and commercial decision making and an unhealthy reliance on out of touch centralised control is the cost saving model to imitate. It isn’t.

And I’m not sure how reassuring it is for Janette to advise we will run a fair and thorough process to ensure we have the right colleagues in the right leadership roles for our business to succeed in the future”. I hear the whole process, including making the appointments of new “leaders”, has been contracted out to an external agency. Which wouldn’t, by any chance, be related to the management consultancy which recommended the changes would it?

Interestingly in the same week announcements have been made of dramatic cuts to timetables in South Yorkshire for a post Covid financial support world (with no doubt more to follow in other areas of the country) Jeanette writes “we remain focused on increasing our drivers and maintaining our engineering colleague numbers and have a whole host of activity lined up to increase frontline appointments”. Sounds like those management consultants at work again.

Here’s an alternative suggestion to cut costs, which may not go down well with some, but I reckon is justified and will definitely reduce costs …. cut senior directors’ “remuneration packages” by 20% and cut out any “performance bonuses”. Salaries and bonuses now paid to managing directors and senior executives throughout the public transport industry are grossly over inflated and I’d much rather see more locally focussed managing directors retained and paid less (there are plenty of keen young managers who’ll be happy to do the roles if current ones don’t want to) than have less roles but paying eye watering remuneration. And a cull of centralised head office roles can’t come soon enough either, together with a moratorium on engaging “outside agencies” with their six or seven figure annual fees too.

Janette advises other staff “this change doesn’t impact anyone outside of our leadership population, so please remain focused on your role. The more we can pull together, support each other, and staff focused on delivering for our customers , the better we will emerge”.

It had all been looking so much better at many of First’s bus companies in recent times with strong local identities coming to the fore implemented by re-energised local managers released from the overpowering and misplaced centralised diktats of the Lockhead era.

As a customer I look forward to Janette’s promised “better delivery” once these latest reorganisational proposals are implemented (which they’re sure to be notwithstanding the current “consultation”) and I hope my pessimism at their negative impact will be proved wrong.

Sadly, I don’t think it will be.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

65 thoughts on “A reverse move for First

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  1. Bus Back(wards) and call it Better. Where have(n’t) I heard that one before?

    I (and I suspect a fair few other locals) have had our suspicions for some time on recent experience, so it isn’t any surprise.

    Management consultants going round in circles. Haven’t they always? It’s the old fee tree.

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  2. Problem + passenger numbers falling
    Solution + more remote management.

    I am enough of a dinosaur to remember how good local management could grow the market by focusing on consistently delivering a service people want.

    Buses back better?

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    1. It’s intersection that Rotala PLC headquarters are based in Tividale in Sandwell. West Bromwich, Dudley, Oldbury, Halesowen and Walsall have an excellent network of Services operated by Diamond Bus which anyone would agree is head and shoulders above National Express West Midlands & Diamond are the dominant operator on many West Bromwich routes whilst in other areas of the country the company comes into much criticism from others about its operations. A case perhaps the board based in Sandwell understand its home operations far better than those less local and run from Hallibridge Way.

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  3. To some extent it makes sense. Some thinks are best done nationally. some regionally and some locally

    Things like HR, Finance, Supply chain and procurement are best done nationally

    The rest of it is about getting the balance right If you take Wales there operations outside of Swansea are very small. The Haverfordwest garage is tiny and it is surprising they have kept it

    They probably need sperate areas managers for Wales and the West of England and with say the East Of England a separate area Manage for Essex and Norfolk & Suffolk

    In effect I would see the Regions as tiny with just say a Regional Manager and perhaps an assistant. They would be the interface between the Head Office and the local operations

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  4. I actually did my professional accountancy training at First your quote Rodger “This claptrap is straight out of the business school theory of management efficiency beloved of external management consultants ” stems from the whole of the business model at FirstGroup is based upon the book Strategic Management by Michael Porter . This Harvard based principle of business as a corporate structure is why FirstGroup turned out in its operational methods so different to Stagecoach. Personally I have applied it my client base big & small in my Edgbaston practice over the last 25 years very sucessfully the businessmodel is fundamentaly sound . However the key is applying it and I full agree Firsts approach has been a somewhat of a different approach to “Transforming Travel”

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  5. I have found as a bus passenger now (ex driver) that the successful bus companies all operate under local management ,by managers who know local coditions and what the local passengers need or want ,mangement travelling on or even driving regually to find out for themselves then they can improve things that will really help

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    1. Bus companies such as FirstGroup are about creating asset value and dividends paid to fund holders passengers play no part in the equation they are simply part of Trading part of the TP&L a/c. The equation now is simply generating the gross profit from the Turnover. Passenger needs are insignificant that is a matter for the local authority not the bus company its a brutal assessment bit that is how Rotala, FirstGroup etc operate as PLCs under the current system.

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  6. Worcester and Bristol together. Bringing the Badgerline band back together.

    Hopefully we’ll see some more colourful stuff in Worcester and not that horrid fushia

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    1. Let’s hope not when I did my accountancy training there Worcester & Bristol could not stand each other . There was no dialogue between Midland Red West & Bristol City line. Badgerline did most of the back office accountancy functions from Weston. It’s a total myth in Badgerline Holdings day it was one happy family MRW acted totally independently and couldn’t care less about Western National, SWT, PMT , Badgerline, Cityline , Eastern National however Ken Mills was on the greatest leaders ever in the bus industry a wonderful man whose vision made MRW so sucessfull after deregulation.

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  7. So Ms. Bell is restructuring the “leadership” and it “doesn’t affect” anyone else. What are they supposed to be leading, exactly? Oh, sorry I forgot; it doesn’t matter.

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  8. It could work, but the ‘new local business units’ each need five or six real local managers covering a smaller area, with full autonomy and decision making powers to grow the business. They should have a budget and financial targets, but other than that, they have a free rein to do what they like.

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  9. Does it matter if it works? It will appear in a data room to bidders looking to buy First Group. It will be explained how they have identified an issue and have a solution.

    Bidders for the business will smile and give value. First Group will change hands before it is implemented.

    Is it even expected to be implemented or just to look good in the short term.

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  10. Have to say this seems like just a repeat of what happened in the past and a strategy that certainly failed and it’s only been since local managers have got control that things have improved, as like Roger said, the later end of the Lockhead years were what caused no end of problems for First Bus and they’ve only fairly recently overcome those.

    You have to wonder if the new leaderships lack of experience in the bus industry is playing a part here, every woman, man and their cats or dogs involved in the industry or First for a number of years knows how bad it turned out before but if you weren’t around for it, you won’t have learnt the lesson of it.

    The other thing is the talk about people being able to discuss their thoughts on it. Let’s be blunt. If you’ve got 10 areas going down to six, there has to be the chance that some people may not have a job in the new structure since you’d imagine that of all the areas merging, all the current MDs will want the top job in the new merged local areas. Are you going to be that vocal in that kind of environment if you want to stay?

    On the other hand, maybe you would since it might be a good time to exit and avail of a good redundancy payment if you’ve been there a while. And also if you want to be REALLY CYNICAL, it might suit First as well to have the opportunity to facilitate the exit of some staff from the business to make way for new blood.

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  11. Considering bus company management teams are utterly exhausted by 30 months of COVID, often pointless BSIP/EP negotiations, meddling by the Dft and by simply keeping the show on the road, to inflict yet another reorganisation which will lead to an inevitable loss of talent seems misguided to say the least . It’s been clear to anyone who has read Janette Bells outpourings that she hasn’t a clue how to run a bus operation, to which must now be added a clear inability to manage people.
    Her Linked in profile suggests she has the ‘Proven ability of creating,developing and retaining high performance teams’ It’s likely the next 12 months will put that to the test.

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    1. Personally from a strategic vision point of view I think she has actually come up with a very clever idea to subjugate 6 SBUs and with Stagecoach & Go Ahead dead in the water create a business model to deliver a better NBV I think it should be applauded not critized it couldn’t be worse than Firsts current UK Bus business model

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      1. I tend to agree with you; but that’s not saying much, is it? As for Stagecoach and Go-Ahead being “dead in the water, so have Arriva been for a few years now, and they’re still around (at least the last time I checked) . So I’m not inclined to take anything for granted. Everyone is treading water.

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      2. My comments that Stagecoach & Go Ahead being dead in the water ascertain to that they are now owned by investment funds who are simply in the market to asset strip in Stagecoaches case their new owners had their HQ recently raided by the German equivalent of the Serious Fraud Squad whereas FirstGroup are still a British PLC

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  12. It seems as if COP26 never happened. Everything I read says government and the public transport industry have accepted that demand post covid will stay reduced. Yet carbon reduction targets require MORE public transport and less car use. Meanwhile I have just read that Wiltshire Council is preparing plans to expand capacity at the M4 J17 with more traffic lights and an extra lane around the roundabout to increase capacity for MORE cars. J17 serves Chippenham, a market town of c40,000 population.

    What a distopian world we inhabit!

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    1. COP26 is a waste of time and was simply a PR exercise for world leaders I once attended a G7 conference in Ireland and what you saw from the world leaders including Cameron & Merkell was not what was happening behind closed doores its simply PR

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      1. Richard, yes you’re exactly right. Bus Back Better, COP26, 40 new hospitals etc – all sound bites to trick voters. Meanwhile road traffic is back to pre pandemic and new road plans continue to appear. In my home town of Chippenham, Wiltshire Council want to build a “distributer road” around the south of the town linking the A350 and A4, and infill with 4,000 homes. Their Future Chippenham plan did have a bus in an illustrated cross section plan of the new road so that’s ticked. If all the greenwash was genuine then new developments would be planned around bus routes (like Runcorn, and Almere in The Netherlands).

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      2. Thank you for your kind comments Peter here in the Midlands Redditch New Town is the perfect example of planners who do not understand buses everyone has to walk onto large orbital highways to access thier bus services from their homes. The long standing Redditch Circular 57/58 is sucessfull however you get soaked when it’s raining as it’s a fair walk to homes whereas my bus stop with a service every 7 to 10mins is at the corner of the road far more convenient but is a historic service 217/417/4H over the years.

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  13. A really concerning picture that you’re right to comment on. The first principle should be that buses are a local product that needs local management. In much of First’s patch we are moving away from commercially led networks to politically led. This means management that knows the local issues,not just attends a quarterly partnership board. The only way I can see this working is having 2 to 4 strong area commercial managers per company with real delegated powers. I fear that will not fit the consultancy corporate mode

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  14. Just when First local companies were getting successful, under bright young local managers – Cornwall, South Hampshire I’m looking at you – we get this I’ll advised push back to remote management. Somebody with backbone needs to tell Janette that it’s been done before. It resulted in grey fleets, a miserable, detached workforce and a failing business.

    Is that what she really wants ?

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  15. Just a thought. Is Ms. Bell planning that First should only run services which are specified, and where the commercial risk is taken by the local authority. It seems attractive to foreign funds. That is, First operate as a utility. In which case, why would she consider innovative local management of any importance? It’d make her job easier!

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    1. I don’t agree local management have completely & the current model is untenable & has failed at FirstGroup ,just look at the shambles that is First Midland Red Buses Limited this is a bold attempt in the current crisis in parts of the bus industry to model UK Bus on a structure to support the future direction of the company Jeanette should be applauded on this move its sets out clear strategic positioning for the future I would love to see Worcestershire again full of Red Cream & Black buses but its never going to happen this roadmap is straight out of Maslows Hirachy of Needs & is exactly what First UK Bus needs after all the recent untangable mixed messages that has left the company vulnerable over the last decade I mean The Salt Road the most stupidest branding ever & it failed miserably supporting my points perfectly.

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      1. So what is the Bus Strategy? I can’t work it out. We’re told the management structure and the accounting objectives, thank you. But neither are the strategic positioning of the business. Rather as I don’t see what Kernow and your Salt Road have in common (apart from both being under the First umbrella, perhaps by accident rather than design).

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      2. First Kennow has worked by being a Strategic Business Unit operated within FirstGroup this approach I’d now be extended to 6 SBUs. First Midland Red was part of a local cluster of operations not being vertically interested. The new plans will adopt the FK Business model across First. The Salt Rd branding was an example of idiotic branding coupled with a stupid green livery applied by management with too much local power in an area they were not located being out of touch with the area involved. No associates the 144 with Salt and this was a key factor in its demise.

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      3. First Kernow surely “worked” by exploiting the local tourist market (and winning large centralised schools contracts, and P&R). And with a county council awarded government megabucks.

        How, for instance, does that help my local op, in Essex with no tourist market to speak of (and what there is First have abandoned) , decentralised schools contracts and just-lost P&R contracts. Where’s the money-tree? Do tell.

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      4. If operations are not commercial they will be cut quite simply its up to local authorities then to fund the gaps there is no such thing as a money tree .

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  16. Is it bringing back the Regional Managers that First Bus, I seem to recall, got rid of in the early 2000s? I didn’t understand what they did then, apart from seem to shadow the local management (alongside Giles Farnley, the then Bus MD); and I’m no clearer about the current proposal.

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  17. It is a bold move to state so clearly that First are into managing decline mode. No marketing speak about growing the business, or heaven forfend, meeting customer desire, this is plain we know the party is over let’s try to make the best of it.

    This has happened before some 20 years ago, but this is brazenly about cutting costs and not caring about how it looks. Fair play to Ms Bell on being open about how she sees this playing out. Many people can see the danger of falling passenger numbers but few have the vision and power to ensure it happens.

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  18. It depends on what the “local” MDs are responsible for.

    If they are glorified Ops managers, then it won’t work at all.

    If they are true MDs leading and developing businesses, and changing the culture (eg Nigel Eggleton in South Yorkshire) then having the right MD can make a huge difference and drive businesses forward for the benefit of staff customers and (yes) shareholders..

    However some of First current crop of MDs appear to be little more than glorified Ops managers and are not IMHO MD material.

    My opinion is that the sucess or failure of this strategy will depend as much if not more on the quality of the ops managers in each group of depots, than on the new regional MDs. Get this right and there are real beefits to be had, but no guarantee that will happen.

    The new regional groupings look sensible (Worcester has far more in common with Cymru/WoE than it ever had with South Yorkshire; South West in with Wessex Hampshire also fits, and Manchester and Berkshire have to fit somewhere!)

    Not wanting to speculate, do we know who the new MDs are yet?

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  19. If there is one thing that Janette Bell is any good at then that is WAFFLING IN MANAGEMENT PSYCHOBABBLE!!!

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    1. At lot of us do mate it’s part of the training you get when you do an MBA to prepare you for corporate life to be honest were better trained than politicians and Janette is one of the best!

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  20. Roger

    Oh how I wish I’d don’t agree with everything you say. It’s a throwback to the bad old days, not just of early First, but even beyond that to NBC. Everyone in the bus industry should be given a copy of Ben Colson’s excellent book on Eastern Counties; to paraphrase How Not To Run A Bus Company.

    I enjoy your blogs but I did feel that on the Digigo one, you were perhaps a bit kind. The Essex bid referred to areas with little or no public transport. Good Easter is, certainly, not well served. However, I live in the South Braintree Digigo area and the same cannot be said there. The principal areas served are Great Notley and White Courts estates on the edge of Braintree and the village of Rayne (where I live). White Courts is served by First Essex service between Chelmsford and Braintree (with extension to Colchester). At the time ECC submitted their bid, White Courts was enjoying four buses an hour in each direction – now two and hour following First Essex April reductions. Rayne has a very good bus service, Arriva 133, hourly during the day seven days a week, less frequent very early morning and evenings. One of the advertised destinations of Digigo is Braintree Interchange, served directly by 133. At a time when operators are clearly struggling with reduced passenger numbers – 80% is quoted in cities but I’ve seen operators in other areas saying it’s more like 70% – I tend to think the last thing they need is a publicly funded competing service.

    David Whiteside

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  21. If RF is the grumpy old retired busman then I am the grumpy old passenger. That’s because last Saturday “due to staff shortages” First Essex cancelled two consecutive journeys on the Chelmsford – Braintree services referred to by David Whiteside. leaving a gap between 1305 and 1435.

    I see that Ms. Bell lives in the Chelmsford area so perhaps she should get a PSV licence pronto and help out at her local depot.

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    1. I hold both a PCV & VALID CPC licence & regularly work helping our local operator out at short notice here in Brum I urge others to do the same its great fun. When passengers complain they have no idea they are speaking to the Company Secretary its amazing! I urge others to do the same

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      1. You sound very busy Richard, with your regular bus driving, running your accountacy practice/management consultancy in Edgbaston, attending G7 conferences, plus your work as a TfWM Bus Champion and dare I say it, unpaid publicity agent for Diamond Bus. How do you do it all? What’s the secret?

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      2. The bus work is at weekends ususally perhaps the odd weekdays . My practice has a number of staff in Edgbaston who are excellent & its easy to walk to meetings in the City Centre most of which are on zoom at present whilst the G7 was back in 2013 when your the boss you decide your time management it’s quite simple really.

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  22. All highly motivating stuff for the senior management teams trying to re-plan networks to cope with post-covid travel patterns whilst dealing with chronic staff shortages. Just take a little time out to re-apply for your own job – but don’t let those numbers slip! Wonder if that’s part of the MBA course?

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    1. Well I did my MBA thru First its a fundamental part of thier management philosophy. Please don’t mock our qualifications yes they are of a very high level but you do have to work hard to attain them my dissertation was on bus deregulation which 25 years later I am still very proud of mind you don’t think anyone had actually heard of Midland Red West Limited at Harvard!

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  23. I’m not mocking your MBA. But Slough to Camborne (to take one example) is 272 miles and a 4.5 hour drive with no traffic. Add an hour or two at busy times. How can the same senior management team effectively manage staff and stakeholders in both locations and many others in between? And don’t tell me they need good local managers – because if the local managers are that good then there’d be no need for a senior management team at all! We all know costs have to be minimised. But repeating the mistakes of the past – both within First and indeed some other operating groups – is not the right approach. Of course, that’s just my opinion, and I don’t run First.

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      1. It certainly has some unique traits. And is generally better than it was in the 2000s. But in what way was it good?

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      2. Well as a trainee accountant I was trained up to a PCV . The company had a very clear pathway to vertical integration of its various local companies the synergies of scale were so impressive in terms of margins First was everything a PLC should be in delivering returns to investors back then. In many ways its business model was based on Strategic Management by Michael Porter the way they could strip out direct overhead expenses and in turn strengthen the balance sheet was breathtaking.

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  24. A sign of how desperate bus companies are for drivers is that Go-Ahead Hedingham are running a recruitment roadshow in Ipswich today.
    Their nearest depots (Sudbury and Clacton) are over twenty miles distant. I doubt that Ipswich Buses and First Eastern Counties will be amused at this attempt to poach staff.

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    1. Interestingly although they regularly advertise for drivers Diamond Bus West Midlands is not cancelling services in the West Midlands County as Stagecoach & Go Ahead are elsewhere in the country. Its interesting that despite the criticism Diamond & myself get from many quarters on this forum our lost mileage at Tividale is minimal. Food for thought to many posters on Rodgers excellent forum.

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      1. It’s very impressive that a trainee accountant can be trained to be a bus! How though do you vertically integrate a bus company? What does that mean exactly? And whilst First did indeed generate some very high margins in the earlier Lockhead years, was that not using very short-terms strategies? For example not investing in fleet will in the short term increase profits. Increasing fares way above inflation will in the short term (sometimes) increase profits. Reducing frequency will in the short term increase profits. Stripping out local management will in the short term increase profits. First did all these things. But after a while, the old fleet falls apart, passengers find other modes of travel, and the lack of local management means the business loses touch with its local markets. And as the old saying goes – you’re left with just one passenger, paying a fare of £20m. And all these things (except the last – we haven’t quite got there yet!) also happened to First in later years. And that’s why until recently they had retrenched in most areas to a far greater extent than the likes of Go Ahead and Stagecoach, who recognised that if you chase the last pound, you’ll end up with nothing. Like in Northampton, and Bury St Edmunds, and North Devon, and Kidderminster and…..I could go on. So short term profits may have been good. But they were exactly that – short term!

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      2. All management at Midland Red West were trained to drive a bus in case of industrial action simple. As vertical integration you take Red Bus, Western National & Southern National & combine to cut costs and replicate this across your operating systems. As for Kidderminster the opportunity arose to divest a loss making operation to another party. As for retrenchment Stagecoach did the same with Norfolk Blue to name just one. It is also should be noted if as you say First have got everything wrong why are they the only PLC to survive personally I wouldn’t take Go Ahead as a model when the company was impeached by the DfT

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      3. Combining Red Bus, Western National & Southern National can hardly be described as “vertical integration”. Stagecoach bought, then disposed of Norfolk GREEN if I recall correctly. National Express still survives as a Plc…..

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      4. Vertical integration was achieved by deleting duplicate back office functions and maintenance especially when much was taken in house thru an active acquisition policy at First. National Express is not really a bus company as such its a coach company than runs Brummie buses and not much more whereas First is a bus & train company with extensive operations as Stagecoach & Go Ahead were before thier demise. Personally in my opinion NXPLC can never seem to make its mind up what it is using them daily.

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  25. I agree that it all sounds wonderful; but how do we deal with the gremlin that some local authorities have the money and the inclination to support their bus networks; and others don’t. And however good and qualified the management passengers left waiting out in the cold, or hot, waiting over an hour for buses that should be every 15 minutes (as happens regularly in my village) , aren’t going to be repeat passengers. We’ve cut them to 30m, but in other towns with other operators, than First, they manage both frequency and reliability better, and with a better quality fleet, even though often no more passengers sadly. Maybe their management aren’t so well qualified.

    To me it sounds very much like the Arriva model. I’m not anti Arriva, but is that the objective. I like the sound of Kernow, but how do we adopt their strategy without the same level of government financial support elsewhere? Where’s the money coming from? Not the shareholders, it seems; unless First change their mind and accept a bid.

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    1. Let me cut to the chase. In First Essex (not so different from other areas, although Kermow is an exception, not the rule) the priority is to pursue “guaranteed income” contract work, and elsewhere to cut your suit to fit your cloth. Just I wouldn’t call that strategy, but necessity. It’s hand to mouth survival.
      Why does that need management restructure?Just cost saving. But dress it up, to distract the peasants from revolting too much. Throw in a bit of promising them jam tomorrow, and cut-price rebranding to help keep them quiet.

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      1. In order for a business to remain competitive top down bottom up periodic reviews of management structures. It’s simple good business methods. The recent creations of 6 SBUs now provides clear operating units to pursue both growth and retrenchment when required. As Fitst are ahead of the game and now more timely as I doubt the next Prime Minister will be quite so bus friendly.

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      2. I think the big (unaddressed) question about structure is whether with our all-embracing
        intrusive regulation they’re managers or administrators? Either way, I’m not sure that games of musical chairs are of much help.

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      3. We were taught on our MBA to continue to refresh management & periodically apply a SWOT analysis to both management structures, strategies & human resources. Basically First usually follows the management principles of Michael Porters Strategic Management. I welcome the periodic changes at FIRSTGROUP it can only be a positive thing for an organisation of its size.

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  26. I don’t disagree with you, and worked in organisations that worked to the same principles.

    But I don’t see why that should obstruct or delay a root and branch reform of the regulatory framework (and equally, if not more important, practice). Otherwise we may just be setting new candidates up for failure, if indeed we can attract the right people to the industry in the first place? Management doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

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  27. The upshot is surely Ms. Bell’s grand ambition to make First into Arriva Mark2. Except it isn’t. Ironic, just as DB want shot of it.

    It might be something I’d have supported, over a decade ago.

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    1. The ambition in the changed world of bus post Covid-19 to make FirstGroup to be strategic placed simple. The reorganisation is a model to good business practice to an PLC something unakin to Arriva Passenger Services as its an state owned entity

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      1. I wasn’t thinking of ownership, though of course that’s important, not least due to the underlying state covenant.

        My understanding is that APS was always treated as a separate trading company, not a state entity. Notwithstanding, each individual route is expected to wash its face, and treated accordingly, which is what I was referring to. So, no profits, no investment.

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      2. Arriva Passenger Services is wholly owned by DB which is wholly owned by the German Government. How else can it not be state owned given it has NO public shareholders? Do tell how it would be of interest to both myself & Companies House & the ICAEW as it would effectively change corporate structure regulations if its not state owned?

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