Janette Bell named as successor

Janette Bell will join FirstGroup from P&O Ferries in October

Giles Fearnley, managing director of FirstGroup’s UK bus division, has announced his retirement. He will be succeeded by Janette Bell who joins the group in October.

Fearnley has been MD of First Bus since February 2011. Since then, he has led a transformation of the division’s customer offering including greater digitisation as well as investment in fleets and systems.

In 2018, the group became the first major operator to offer contactless payment on all our buses nationwide. First says under Fearnley’s leadership “the business also developed a strong approach to partnerships in the communities we serve, by working closely with local authorities and all our stakeholders to deliver thriving bus services that are vital to local prosperity and sustainable growth, through reducing congestion on the roads, improving air quality and helping to lower carbon emissions”.

“It has been a great privilege to lead First Bus for approaching ten years,” he said. “With the recent advances we have made in our innovative customer offering; strong partnership working with local authorities and now with our roadmap to a zero-emission fleet in place, it is the right time for me to retire and hand over to Janette who, with the help of our dedicated and hard-working team, will ensure that First Bus maintains its critical role in our communities for years to come.”

Bell was previously chief executive of P&O Ferries. Having joined them in 2012 as commercial director, she was a key part of the executive team that devised and led a significant transformation of the business, including resetting the commercial agenda and delivering a profitable e-commerce strategy.

She became CEO in 2018, and under her leadership the company delivered a significant change programme, establishing a new on-board proposition for customers, driving greater efficiencies and placing its first order for new ferries in over a decade. Most recently Bell led P&O Ferries through extensive preparations for the UK leaving the EU and its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am delighted Janette Bell is joining us as First Bus managing director,” said FirstGroup chief executive Matthew Gregory. “She brings vast experience and a strong track record in creating and delivering successful customer and commercial strategies, making her the right person to build on the progress achieved so far as we work towards our ambition to be the partner of choice for innovative, sustainable transport.

“Vibrant local transport networks are critical to economic growth and I know Janette will ensure our customers receive the best possible service and that our buses continue to play a key role in supporting communities to deliver a connected, healthy and zero-carbon world.”

Gregory paid tribute to Fearnley’s leadership of the UK bus operation over the last decade.

“His leadership during the coronavirus crisis has helped ensure First Bus can continue to provide essential services and emerge from the current situation in the most robust position possible,” he said. “We have all benefited greatly from his experience and knowledge over time, and he leaves with our warmest wishes for a long and happy retirement.”

Commenting on her appointment, Janette Bell commented: “I know there is a bright future for the high-quality, low-carbon services that we bring to communities across the UK. I look forward to continuing the work of the team as we provide better and simpler journeys for our customers, and create a stronger, successful and sustainable business for the future.”

Bell will join First Bus on October 26, enabling a handover process to take place between her and Fearnley, who will leave later in the year.

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