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First West of England

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First West of England
Service areaBristol
North Somerset
South Gloucestershire
Service typeBus services
Routes146 (February 2024, incl. contracts)
Fleet502 (June 2023)
Annual ridership70 million (2018-19)[1]
Managing DirectorDoug Claringbold[2]

First West of England[3] is a bus operator providing services in Bristol, Bath, Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Wiltshire. It is a subsidiary of FirstGroup.


Wright StreetDeck in Bristol in January 2016
Alexander Dennis Enviro400MMC in park & ride livery in September 2016
Optare Solo SR in Bath in October 2022
Wright StreetDeck in Weston-super-Mare's Badgerline livery in Bristol in March 2022

In 1875 George White formed the Bristol Tramways Company and began a horse-drawn service from Upper Maudlin 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5][6]

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.[7]

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,[8] 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.[3]

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.[9][10]

In December 2016 all services operated by First Bristol transferred to First Somerset & Avon,[11] 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.[12][13]

In August 2018, the Weston-super-Mare based operations were rebranded as Badgerline with the yellow and green livery of the former operator adopted.[14]

In 2022, First Worcester depot was transferred from the First Midlands management structure into the newly formed First Cymru & West of England structure, forming part of the West of England division respectively.[15]


First West of England operate the majority of services in Bristol and an extensive network of services in and around Bath, Trowbridge, Wells and Weston-super-Mare as well as Worcestershire.

Services in Bristol include the four routes of the Metrobus express network.[16]


First Wright StreetDeck passing an Alexander Dennis Enviro400 City CBG in Bristol city centre, November 2023

As of January 2024, the First West of England fleet consisted of 561 buses and coaches.[citation needed] The fleet includes 99 Alexander Dennis Enviro400 City CBG natural gas-powered buses, which entered service in February 2020.[17]


First West of England has depots at Marlborough Street in central Bristol, and in the Lawrence Hill and Hengrove suburbs.[18] Other depots are at Bath, Weston-super-Mare, Wells and Worcester.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "First Bus profits increase by almost seven times as more people take the bus". Bristol Post. 23 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Doug Claringbold named First West of England MD". Route One. 14 January 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Companies House extract company no 25088 Archived 12 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine 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
  4. ^ "History of Bristol's buses". Bristol Vintage Bus Group. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  5. ^ Companies House extract company no 1966277 Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine First Bristol Limited formerly First City Line Limited formerly Badgerline Limited
  6. ^ "Badgerline bus back on the road in Bristol". Western Daily Press. 9 August 2015. Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  7. ^ "The FirstGroup Timeline". First Group. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  8. ^ Buses Magazine, Issue 648, March 2009, Ian Allan Publishing
  9. ^ First introduces The Buses of Somerset Archived 26 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine Euro Transport 30 January 2014
  10. ^ First drops corporate look in Somerset Archived 15 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Bus & Coach Professional 5 February 2014
  11. ^ "Search". www.vehicle-operator-licensing.service.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 23 April 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  12. ^ "N&P West of England 17 November 2016" (PDF). www.gov.uk. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  13. ^ First WoE at PI after customer complaints Archived 30 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine Route One 27 July 2016
  14. ^ "Bringing the Badger back to Weston" Coach & Bus Week issue 1356 21 August 2018 page 14
  15. ^ "A reverse move for First". BusAndTrainUser. 2 July 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  16. ^ "metrobus Frequently Asked Questions". travelWEST. Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  17. ^ Cork, Tristan (11 February 2020). "New gas buses have hit the roads of east Bristol". BristolLive. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  18. ^ "New bus depot idea unveiled for Bristol". BBC News. 10 June 2015. Archived from the original on 30 November 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to First Somerset and Avon at Wikimedia Commons