First West of England
|Service type||Bus services|
|Fleet||649 (March 2016)|
|Managing Director||James Freeman|
First West of England Limited (formerly First Somerset & Avon) is a bus operator providing services in Bristol, Bath, Somerset, South Gloucestershire and West Wiltshire. It is a subsidiary of FirstGroup.
In 1875 George White formed the Bristol Tramways Company and began a horse-drawn service from Upper Mauldlin Street to Blackboy Hill. In 1887 the Bristol Tramways Company merged with the Bristol Cab Company to form the Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company, later the Bristol Omnibus Company.
In 1929 the White family sold out to the Great Western Railway who by 1932 had sold it to the Western National. In 1948 the company was nationalised, and in 1969 it became part of the National Bus Company.
In September 1983 the National Bus Company split the operation in two, with the Cheltenham and Gloucester Omnibus Company taking the services in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud and Swindon. The remainder stayed with the existing Bristol Omnibus Company, divided into two business units: Citybus for services within Bristol, and Bristol Country Bus for services in Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Badgerline was formed in 1985 as the business name of the Bristol Country Bus and in 1986 its assets were transferred to a separate legal entity and privatised in September 1986 in a management buyout.
In September 1987, City Line (formerly Citybus) was sold to Midland Red West which in April 1988 was purchased by Badgerline. After Badgerline merged with GRT Group to form FirstBus in April 1995. In 1996 Badgerline was merged back into City Line, the City Line operation was rebranded as First Bristol.
Southern National was formed in 1983 as the Somerset and Dorset operations of Western National (then part of the National Bus Company). It was privatised in 1988, acquired by FirstGroup in 1999 and rebranded as First Southern National.
In 2001 FirstGroup changed the legal structure of some of its bus operating subsidiaries. The legal entity which had been Badgerline Limited was renamed First City Line Limited and became the operator of Bristol city services (now First Bristol Limited). The legal entity which had been First Bristol Buses Limited (which had previously been Bristol Omnibus Company, incorporated in 1887) was renamed First Somerset & Avon Limited in May 2003 after merging with Somerset operations of First Southern National.
In 2013 buses started to be painted into the new First Bus livery and 'West of England' branding was applied on both sides beneath the windows (on some single-decks the branding is applied above the windows towards the front of the bus). First Somerset & Avon is still printed on some tickets, while other tickets are printed with First Bristol & Avon or just First Bristol.
In February 2014, First's Bridgwater and Taunton business was transferred to First South West and rebranded as The Buses of Somerset in an unprecedented break from the FirstGroup corporate style. The business instead now sports a two-tone green and cream livery with bespoke branding, website and social media profiles. These services were later transferred to First South West.
In December 2016 all services operated by First Bristol transferred to First Somerset & Avon, which was officially renamed First West of England in June 2017, meaning Bristol city services are once again operated by the same legal company as when they first started in 1875.
As at March 2016, the fleet consisted of 649 buses and coaches.
First West of England operate six depots: Bristol Bus Station, Lawrence Hill, Hengrove, Bath, Weston-super-Mare and Wells. A seventh depot, Muller Road, is leased to First from Bristol City Council, however it is only used for storing withdrawn buses due to structural issues including subsidence.
- "About us: Bristol, Bath and the West". First Group. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
- Companies House extract company no 25088 First West of England Limited formerly First Somerset & Avon Limited formerly First Bristol Buses Limited formerly Bristol Omnibus Company Limited formerly Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company Limited
- "History of Bristol's buses". Bristol Vintage Bus Group. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Companies House extract company no 1966277 First Bristol Limited formerly First City Line Limited formerly Badgerline Limited
- "Badgerline bus back on the road in Bristol". Western Daily Press. 9 August 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- "The FirstGroup Timeline". First Group. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Buses Magazine, Issue 648, March 2009, Ian Allan Publishing
- First introduces The Buses of Somerset Euro Transport 30 January 2014
- First drops corporate look in Somerset Bus & Coach Professional 5 February 2014
- N&P West of England 17 November 2016
- First WoE at PI after customer complaints Route One 27 July 2016
- FirstGroup Fleetlist Steve White
- "New bus depot idea unveiled for Bristol". BBC. Retrieved 20 December 2015.