First Scotland East
|Service type||Bus services|
|Fleet||394 (March 2014)|
|Chief executive||Paul McGowan|
|Website||First South East & Central Scotland|
First Scotland East is the operating name for FirstGroup bus operations in the south east and central Scotland, and was created by the merger of three companies: Lowland Scottish, Eastern Scottish and Midland Scottish to form a single company in 1997. In 2000 the company was split into two licences, First Edinburgh and Midland Bluebird, although both licences function as one entity. With the loss of services in Edinburgh, these have since been re-merged back into First Scotland East.
During 1998, First decided to reorganise their operations within the area and to merge three subsidiaries: Lowland Scottish, Eastern Scottish and Midland Scottish. By doing so helped simplify the operations, as areas such as West Lothian or Mid Lothian were covered by at least two out of the three companies. The start of the process came into effect in 1999, with many back-office functions being transferred to Larbert and a new single livery introduced. By 2002 all of the companies' operations were controlled by Larbert.
The company's original name was First Edinburgh, despite this name the operating area was much wider and covered much of the Central, and Borders regions of Scotland and into northern England. The name was renamed First Scotland East in 2008 to better reflect the operating area.
Together with First Glasgow to the west, First operate buses throughout most of the Central Belt of Scotland, from Dumbarton in the west to Dunbar in the east and as far south as Carlisle in England. First Scotland East provide services in Falkirk, the Lothians, Stirling and the Scottish Borders. Although operating very limited services in Edinburgh, these are mainly from the city centre to outlying towns in East Lothian and West Lothian. These only operate on arterial routes, therefore do not serve the city extensively, with most routes within Edinburgh and Midlothian operated by Lothian Buses.
The company's presence in the Scottish Borders has declined drastically due to the withdrawal of commercial town services and the loss of rural tendered services to local independent operators, although the company has recently taken control of service 20, which was previously held by MacEwan's Coaches. Depots in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso and Peebles all closed, leaving just Galashiels as an operating base in the Borders, although buses are parked at Kelso, Hawick and Peebles. Since 2013 the company has started to expand its operations again after winning council tenders and improving its commercial network.
In June 2012 First closed Dalkeith depot and scaled back operations in Musselburgh, with 20 bus routes ceasing across East Lothian and Midlothian. First tried to sell the operations and transfer staff to another operator, but was unsuccessful. In November 2012 Linlithgow depot closed.
In June 2013 route X38 Stirling to Edinburgh was rebranded as First Bluebird with buses painted in a dedicated blue livery. It is operated by Midland Bluebird. Within a year most of the buses in forth Valley area were rebranded as First Bluebird.
First tried to improve passenger growth with a number of revised networks in Falkirk and West Lothian during 2012. In January 2015, First withdraw over a dozen bus routes. Paul McGowan, managing director of First Scotland East, said: "I appreciate that some of our passengers will be disappointed. However, the services that we're changing have been operating at a loss, in some cases a considerable loss, for many years"
In 1997 First launched Fife First to compete with Stagecoach Fife (who had recently started competing with First in Glasgow) on route 56 between Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Cowdenbeath and Ballingry, using vehicles transferred from Lowland, Midland and Rider York and painted in allover red. A sub-depot was established in Dunfermline with Westfield providing most of the vehicles used. Fife First ceased in July 2000 when the service was axed and the low floor buses used were transferred to the Falkirk area.
Edinburgh bus war
In 2001 First sought to increase their market share of Edinburgh city services, cutting fares and increasing traffic on certain routes, while cutting back on more traditional routes. This sparked a very bitter bus war between First and Edinburgh city operator Lothian Buses, with fares being cut, extra vehicles drafted in, timetables altered and routes diverted. Lothian complained to the Office of Fair Trading, claiming First was engaging in anti-competitive behaviour in an effort to become the dominant operator in Edinburgh. The OfT ruled that First's conduct represented legitimate competition, that it did not intend to drive Lothian off the streets, and that its fares were low enough in comparison to its costs. Regardless of this decision, the First network in Edinburgh was curtailed, ending the bus war and with Lothian Buses remaining the dominant city operator.
Heavy losses were made, which resulted in cutbacks in many parts of their operations which included the loss of all travel shops in Dalkieth, Falkirk, Edinburgh, Galashiels, Hawick and Livingston. The main depot at Westfield in Edinburgh was also closed. Many traditional routes to Penicuik, Dalkeith and Bonnyrigg that were cut back have been taken over by Lothian Buses.
First Scotland East has appeared before the Traffic Commissioner on five occasions, in relation to various issues surrounding the company. Public enquiries were held in 2004 and again in 2005, regarding maintenance; in 2008, regarding both maintenance and timekeeping; and again in 2010 regarding timekeeping. A formal warning with regards to maintenance was given in November 2011. Following the first four public enquiries, the company dealt with many of the issues raised and sorted out all outstanding issues. Unfortunately in August 2012 the company appeared for the fifth time in front of the Traffic Commissioner due to further issues regarding services in the Falkirk area.
As at March 2014 the fleet consisted of 394 buses and coaches.
- Companies House extract company no SC091923 First Scotland East Limited
- Companies House extract company no SC091923 First Scotland East Limited ex First Edinburgh Limited
- Companies House extract company no SC016923 Midland Bluebird Limited
- Changes to Services in the East Lothian and Mid Lothian Regions of Scotland FirstGroup 2 April 2012
- Changes to services after closure of First Dalkeith depot Midlothian Council
- Bus depot moves out Linlithgow Gazette
- First brings back the Bluebird name for East Scotland bus operation The Bus People 28 June 2013
- Companies House extract company no SC016923 Midland Bluebird Limited
- http://www.falkirkherald.co.uk/news/business/business-news/big-changes-on-falkirk-s-buses-as-routes-are-cut-1-3611111 Big changes on Falkirk’s buses as routes are cut by Stuart Barber 23 November 2014.
- Bus firm hits back over 'fares war' BBC News 15 August 2001
- Bus wars to be investigated BBC News 27 September 2001
- First Edinburgh / Lothian Office of Fair Trading 9 June 2004
- Decision of the Traffic Commissioner Against First Bus Traffic Commissioner 1 April 2008
- Tell us what's going on! Falkirk Herald 21 June 2007
- Buses in chaos Falkirk Herald 4 October 2007
- Falikirk bus bosses say sorry for failing Falkirk Herald 19 August 2012
- FirstGroup Fleetlist Steve White
Media related to FirstGroup buses in the United Kingdom at Wikimedia Commons