All good things come to an end or so they say, and in truth I suppose that major transport groups like everything in life will come and they will go. One only has to look back at the grand names of the past, to realise that everything has its time. British Rail, the National Bus Company, Cunard, all once household names that one thought would last for ever.
So, I suppose that after all the recent speculation the announcement was made that First Group have decided that the time has come to divest itself of its UK Bus operations. In addition they are going to sell Greyhound and have warned that the three rail franchises that they operate are at risk. They are however going to focus there effort and energies on First Student and First Transit. As a shareholder and once upon a life an employee for over 20 years it is a sad day.
Having been around from the outset, when First was a small number of Bus Companies, long before the brand of First UK Bus, and long before any rail Companies joined the party. It was a good time to be involved, those buccaneering days saw rapid growth and expansion, and after a few short years, the acorn had grown into a massive oak tree. Employing over 125,000 employees and turning over 7 billion pounds, it was indeed an interesting time to watch and observe the speed of growth, back then it also paid out a healthy dividend, peaking at just over five quid a share. They were looking back the glory days, and of course that triggered my foray into Poland and the recruitment of in excess of 3,000 employees from mostly Poland and Eastern Europe.
The recent pressure on the group to fragment reached its peak last year when they posted losses of in excess of 350 million quid, this cost Tim O’Toole his job, and even though they did remarkably well to reduce such a thumping defeceit to 90 million the end was nigh. To be fair the unrest amongst the share holders was also becoming far more vocal, and sooner or later the inevitable was going to happen. To be fair to the great efforts of Giles Fearnley and UK Bus team it is now in a much better place than it has been for quite a few years. Solid sensible management with good people values has been the order of the day, and it has turned the businesses around.
So, we will see what fate has in store for the bus Companies in the UK and indeed Greyhound. The remnants of First Student and First Transit will be the centre of effort and attention, after all they both make good profits. As for myself I will watch with great interest as to who buys what and where. Life as they say is never dull, but as one light fades new empires are created.