FirstGroup has launched a consultation with managers at its UK bus business about a new structure that is intended provide a more local focus.

The Aberdeen-based group wants to replace its subsidiary managing directors with general managers, who will be responsible for one or two depots each.

The reorganisation follows the appointment of Giles Fearnley as managing director of FirstGroup’s 8,500-vehicle UK bus business earlier this year. FirstGroup’s new chief executive, Tim O’Toole, has wants him to take the radical steps required to deliver growth.

However, while the local focus is very much in keeping with the former Blazefield chief executive’s philosophy on bus operation, the consultation that was launched on March 7 is the next stage of a process that began last June, prior to his appointment, when the business was divided between five new regional directors.

Speaking to Passenger Transport this week, Fearnley conceded that FirstGroup’s UK bus management had experienced wave after wave of restructuring and reorganisation. He pledged that the latest reorganisation, which will effect London or Scotland, would be the last for a very long time. “We’ll stick to it and make it work,” he said.

Explaining the reason for the reorganisation, Fearnley said: “We all know that local bus networks work best when they are locally planned and delivered. This is all about doing that.”

At the moment, FirstGroup’s UK bus subsidiary MDs can be responsible for territory that is hundreds of miles away from their office. For example, Cornwall is run from Southampton and Kings Lynn is run from Chelmsford. The new structure will see authority taken down to general managers at depot level, reporting a slim regional team.

The reorganisation is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Scotland, for example, is exempted. Fearnley believes that the Aberdeen, Glasgow and East of Scotland subsdiaries complement the geography of the group’s Scottish business and satisfy the need for regular liason with the Scottish Executive.

A different model will also apply in the PTE areas of the North of England in which First operates – Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. Each of these areas will have a service delivery director, whose sole focus will be the delivery of the network. They will be backed up by planning, commercial, marketing and sales support.

“In very many ways we are reinventing the wheel here,” commented Fearnley. “This is not rocket science. This is about focussing the management where it should be.”