Western Greyhound: Pressure grows

Embattled Western Greyhound is facing a fresh challenge, with rival First adding new services on its key corridors.

The Cornish operator, which has been beset by severe operational difficulties following the resignation of driving and workshop staff, is currently cancelling 23 evening services on six routes due to lack of resources.

The issues that have afflicted Western Greyhound since this summer saw its owners – MD Mark Howarth, his wife Mari and Robin Orbell – put the company up for sale via asset consultants ES Group (routeone, News, 19 November).

Western Greyhound’s growth over the last decade has been in part thanks to the poor performance of loss-making rival First Devon & Cornwall. However, with new MD Alex Carter at the helm, the reinvigorated operation, re-branded First Kernow, has confirmed plans to further expand its network.

From February 2015, First will begin operating new services linking St Columb Major and St Agnes with Truro and Newquay.

In September 2013, First was awarded the contract by Cornwall Council to operate Truro’s Park and Ride service.

On 3 November First began operating new routes between St Austell and Newquay and between Truro and Newquay largely replicating Western Greyhound’s routes 521 and 587.

From 5 January, Wadebridge, Fowey, Par, St Blazey, Mevagissey, Bodmin, Roche and Bugle join First’s network. The services compete with Western Greyhound’s routes 524 and 529. On the St Austell-Par route, First will also compete with new operator Cornwall Busways, which started in competition with Western Greyhound, in October.

“This is great news for bus customers in St Columb Major, St Agnes, Truro and Newquay,” says Mr Carter. “From February we will begin operating high quality bus services which will provide much needed links between these important communities.

“We will reveal exact details of our new services in the New Year – we’re both excited by the prospect of further extending our network and determined to provide the best service possible and attract more people to bus travel.

“The number of people travelling with First is growing, which is enabling us to expand our business. Over the last year or so, we’ve worked incredibly hard to improve our services, especially punctuality and reliability, and encourage more people to use the bus.

“Our efforts are being rewarded – indeed in a number of cases we are seeing increases in passenger numbers in excess of 10%.”