Monday 6 July 2015

David Squire To Leave First Eastern Counties

It is with sadness that I report that the Managing Director of First Eastern Counties, David Squire is to leave his post next month.

After hearing about the possibility I contacted David, who kindly sent me an email, which I will quote part of here.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Eastern Counties, some terrific people and I'm pleased to have played a small part in moving the company forward, particular highlights for me have been the Ipswich Refurb programme, the heritage liveries, the Norwich repaint and refurb programme plus the better relationship that wow enjoy with all of our stakeholders through getting the basics right, listening to our customers and being more proactive (and reactive) to things, the Norwich travel shop will finally come to fruition in September and we have seen the benefits through much better Passenger Focus scores.

I am meeting with David on Friday, after which a full review and tribute to David's time at the helm of FEC will be published. I'll also be publishing more of his holiday snaps from Italy and Lithuania hopefully on Wednesday.

As yet I don't know if the search for David's successor has begun, but I assume that Chris Speed and Hugo Forster will be in charge for the interim period after David's departure. As I receive more authorised information I will publish it.

On a separate note my thoughts and prayers go out to those involved in the Brighton bus crash today. Bus travel is just about the safest there is, and when an incident like today's happens it reminds us of the skill of the drivers we place our safety in day after day.


  1. Certainly agree with your last comment. Sorry to hear David is leaving, but good news for him, hopefully. FEC don't seem able to keep MDs do they, to lose one is perhaps misfortune, two looks like a habit? Perhaps the economics haven't improved with the cosmetics, but these things take time. Worrying signs elsewhere that First are reverting to old habits, withdrawals and sales? Musical chairs is often a sign of a business that's going no-where, not a good sign for a transport company. Their "new" operations director has, I suppose, got to do something to make his mark, and not the same as the old one! So might FEx and FEC, having been (partially) demerged, now be remerged? Back to sleep ...

  2. The 'old' First of Moir Lockhead seldom sold anything, opting instead for continual cutback after cutback with buses removed from PVR at each service change, with a managed decline, in order to maintain the margins. Yet other operators in that area managed to make it work.....
    There was no tolerance of risk taking or failure under the old regime (those who lost money or failed to meet their targets were swiftly dismissed). This led to a lack of talented people within First, as people would simply not join the group in this type of culture.
    This went on for almost 16 years, post the Badgerline/GRT merger, in which time a lot of people left the group to work elsewhere. Some of those people are now working again for First, and the 'new' regime has been there 4 years now and 16 years of hubris and fear management will take time to reverse. Stagecoach had to go through this process 15 years ago, and refocus on what they had, doing more with it, and allow people to try new things. This has paid off for them and they now have an innovative, stable and respected business.
    At least First is now very clear on where they see the business going and in selling areas that they see no future in this allows other people to take on those operations and turn them into a success. First's real money making areas have always been confined to large urban areas where they are able to place a few more buses into a high frequency corridor and contain those costs.

  3. Yup. It's why I've never seen First with a future in southern England, where there aren't any conurbations outside London (with the possible exception of Bristol). Mind you doesn't a solely urban operator too have limited scope for expansion. They can just run more buses on their existing routes, but what then? First's strategy (if one can call it that) seems one born of necessity - what I mean by calling them the bankers' bus company; the successful operators seem to me to integrate urban, inter-urban and some feeder rural services to give them more control over their destiny and, more importantly, scope for expansion in a changing economic environment. I'm not sure First think strategically at all, by which I mean to cope with a changing environment. That may be because they don't feel they have the freedom to do so. If so, what a pity.

    1. No, First didn't under the old regime - their response was to cut PVR steadily by reducing service frequencies on these key urban routes, so over time the businesses were shrinking. These types of cuts are more visible on a small town network of 10-15 buses but the reverse can apply under the 'new' regime - its where buses can be added to PVR steadily.
      It is interesting to observe that where 'new' people are in at operating companies they are innovating and trying new things, but where 'old' people still run operating companies they have continued to operate in the same manner as before, choosing the path of least risk open to them.

  4. The "new" operations director appointed in April 2015 appears to have moved on and is now the Group Safety Director.

  5. Needs must, I suppose. To me First Bus, old management or new, still seem to be struggling and it's mostly a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or running to stand still.