First warns of further cuts ahead

FirstGroup says it may need to close more depots as it continues to react to difficult trading conditions for its UK bus business.

In the 12 months to 31 March, profits fell at the First Bus division serving the UK and Republic of Ireland from £52million in 2015/16 to £37million on turnover down from £870.9million to £861.7million. Operating margin fell from 6% to 4.3%.

‘Industry conditions remain challenging and our focus must therefore remain on tailored cost efficiencies to improve our margin,’ says chief executive Tim O’Toole.

‘We therefore expect to continue to make changes to the shape and breadth of our depot network, while continuing disciplined investment to stimulate growth where appropriate.’

In recent months, First has closed its Bury and Rotherham depots in Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire, while the Scotland East company withdrew completely from the Borders and Midlothian, closing its depot at Galashiels and associated sub-depots.