Bus firm to invest in Wigan operation

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WIGAN’S principal bus operators in waiting have assured staff and travellers of a successful future.

FirstGroup surprised the staff at the brand new Bryn depot home to their 120 vehicle fleet by announcing they were selling out the business as a going concern to operator rivals Stagecoach.

The £12m deal is expected to have gone through by Christmas,

Employees will have their terms and conditions protected by TUPE arrangements.

And Stagecoach, which will amalgamate the Wigan operation into their existing Greater Manchester Buses East unit, today assured the current 300 First drivers, mechanics and route managers plus a outpost of staff at Wigan bus station in Hallgate now facing transfer, that the firm intended to grow the Wigan passenger transport operation by working in partership with the council and local community.

Greater Manchester Buses East currently has 1,850 staff and an operational fleet of 630 buses. In the 12 months to March 31, the First Wigan business raised more than £13.2m in ticket sales, giving an operating profit of £1.5m.

Stagecoach chiefs said today that Wigan was a new area of operation for the firm.

But the business they are acquiring was already profitable and would now enjoy further investment.

Spokesman Steve Stewart said: “The staff will become part of our successful Stagecoach Manchester company, which carries nearly 100m passengers a year. As you would expect, when any business is taken over, there will be some changes.

“However, our plans are very much to invest in the bus network in Wigan.

“Stagecoach is an award-winning bus operator and we have a long track-record of growing our bus operations across the UK. In the last five years alone, we have invested more than £370m in hundreds of new vehicles for local communities and for our inter-city coach services.

“We have been independently recognised as offering the best value bus fares of any major operator in the UK and we and run high quality services for our customers.

“We look forward to welcoming existing employees at the Wigan depot to our company. Our aim is to work with them, the local authority and the wider community to attract people away from their cars to greener, smarter bus travel.”

Managing director of First UK Bus Managing Director Giles Fearnley said: “The sale of our Wigan bus business marks continued progress in our programme of selected asset and business disposals as we review the scope and scale of our UK Bus portfolio and reposition it for the longer term.”

Chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Bus Network sub committee, Coun Mark Aldred (Wigan) said: “We’re confident that the announcement that Stagecoach has agreed to acquire the Wigan bus business and assets from First Manchester will be good news for passengers.

Independent Wigan member for TfGM Coun Norman Bradbury said: “This is great news for Wigan.

“The operation will become part of Stagecoach Manchester whose managing director is Chris Bowles is the ultimate professional and always puts passengers first.”