Group to pay £11.17m to acquire First’s Queen’s Road depot



After weeks of intense speculation about the future of FirstGroup’s Manchester bus operation, it was confirmed this week that Go-Ahead has agreed terms to acquire First Manchester’s Queen’s Road depot in Cheetham Hill.

The sale will take Go-Ahead into Greater Manchester, Britain’s second-largest urban area, for the first time.

The new operation, named Go North West, will acquire 163 buses and a portfolio of routes predominately serving central Manchester, the north of the city and Salford, including the Vantage-branded routes on the Leigh-Salford guided busway corridor.

The sale is expected to complete within several weeks and Go-Ahead has agreed to pay £11.17m for the business. First says it will continue to operate from two sites, Oldham and Bolton, although there remains intense speculation about the future of these operations. Earlier this month The Daily Telegraph reported that FirstGroup might sell each of its three sites in Greater Manchester to different purchasers (PT202).

The sale of the Queen’s Road depot gives a strong indication that this may be the case and that the disposal of the two remaining depots may follow.

“I’d like to thank our employees for their continued hard work to deliver the best experience possible for our customers in Greater Manchester,” said Giles Fearnley, managing director of First’s UK bus division.

“Today’s announcement does not reflect on the effort, commitment or individual performance of our Queen’s Road employees and we will be supporting them fully as they transfer to their new employer.

“Over the years we have enjoyed a constructive relationship with both Go-Ahead and Transport for Greater Manchester and look forward to working closely with them to ensure this transfer goes ahead as smoothly as possible with minimal impact for our customers.”

As a business that prides itself on looking after our colleagues, we hope to reinvigorate the Queen’s Road depot.

David Brown, chief executive of Go-Ahead, said the group looked forward to contributing to Manchester’s community and transport. “As a business that prides itself on looking after our colleagues, we hope to reinvigorate the Queen’s Road depot,” he added. We also look forward to engaging in open conversations with TfGM, stakeholders and customers in the Manchester area to better understand how we can create a sustainable and thriving service.”

The sale continues the retrenchment by First in the area that has already seen its Wigan depot sold to Stagecoach in 2012 and the closure of three other depots in subsequent years.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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