Giles Fearnley, 66, is to retire later this year after a long and successful career in public transport, including the last 10 years as First Bus MD.

He will be succeeded by former P&O CEO Janette Bell who joins the Group on 26 October. She revealed last month that she was standing down from P&O, but was not able to disclose her new position.

A handover will take place between her and Giles, who will leave later in the year.

Having joined P&O in 2012 as Commercial Director, Janette Bell was a key part of the executive team that devised and led a significant transformation of the business, including resetting the commercial agenda and delivering a profitable e-commerce strategy.

She became CEO in 2018, and under her leadership the company delivered a significant change programme, establishing a new on-board proposition for customers, driving greater efficiencies and placing its first order for new ferries in over a decade.

Most recently Janette led P&O Ferries through extensive preparations for the UK leaving the EU and its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Giles Fearnley’s leadership the business also developed a strong approach to partnerships in the communities it serves

Since his appointment as Managing Director of First Bus in February 2011, Giles Fearnley has led a transformation of First’s customer offering including greater digitisation as well as investment in fleets and systems.

In 2018, it became the first major operator to offer contactless payment on all its buses nationwide.

Under Giles’s leadership the business also developed a strong approach to partnerships in the communities it serves, by working closely with local authorities and all stakeholders to deliver thriving bus services that are vital to local prosperity and sustainable growth, through reducing congestion on the roads, improving air quality and helping to lower carbon emissions.

In July 2020 First Bus announced a commitment to operate a zero-emission fleet by 2035 and does not plan to purchase any diesel buses after December 2022.

“In July 2020 First Bus announced a commitment to operate a zero-emission fleet by 2035 and does not plan to purchase any diesel buses after December 2022.”

FirstGroup Chief Executive Matthew Gregory says: “Janette Bell brings vast experience and a strong track record in creating and delivering successful customer and commercial strategies, making her the right person to build on the progress achieved so far as we work towards our ambition to be the partner of choice for innovative, sustainable transport.

“Vibrant local transport networks are critical to economic growth and I know Janette will ensure our customers receive the best possible service and that our buses continue to play a key role in supporting communities to deliver a connected, healthy and zero-carbon world.

“I’d like to thank Giles Fearnley for his immense contribution to FirstGroup and the wider public transport sector.

“His leadership during the coronavirus crisis has helped ensure First Bus can continue to provide essential services and emerge from the current situation in the most robust position possible.

“We have all benefited greatly from his experience and knowledge over time, and he leaves with our warmest wishes for a long and happy retirement.”

“I’d like to thank Giles Fearnley for his immense contribution to FirstGroup and the wider public transport sector. His leadership during the coronavirus crisis has helped ensure First Bus can continue to provide essential services and emerge from the current situation in the most robust position possible.”

Matthew Gregory, FirstGroup CEO

Janette Bell said: “I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. I know there is a bright future for the high-quality, low-carbon services that we bring to communities across the UK.

“I look forward to continuing the work of the team as we provide better and simpler journeys for our customers, and create a stronger, successful and sustainable business for the future.”

Giles Fearnley said: “It has been a great privilege to lead First Bus for approaching 10 years.

“With the recent advances we have made in our innovative customer offering; strong partnership working with local authorities and now with our roadmap to a zero-emission fleet in place, it is the right time for me to retire and hand over to Janette who, with the help of our dedicated and hard-working team, will ensure that First Bus maintains its critical role in our communities for years to come.”

CV: Janette Bell  

Janette joined P&O Ferries as Commercial Director in 2012. She was later appointed Managing Director, repositioning the business for growth through the development and delivery of a range of customer value propositions and strategies, before becoming CEO in January 2018.

Janette is also a non-executive director of Newcastle-based residential property landlord Grainger plc.

Prior to joining P&O Ferries, Janette was Sales & Marketing Director for Hammerson plc, the property development and investment company.

She held senior executive positions within Centrica, including Director of Sales & Growth for British Gas.

Her career began at Tesco, where she was a graduate trainee, before becoming a consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

She has an MBA from the University of Stirling and completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Warwick University.

CV: Giles Fearnley

Giles’s career in passenger transport spans several decades.

In 1991 he led a management buy-out of Blazefield Holdings which operated bus networks principally across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

He remained as Chief Executive for two years following the group’s sale to Transdev plc in 2006.

In the mid-1990s he moved to the rail sector and was one of the founders of Prism Rail plc, which operated four UK passenger rail franchises, and led that group prior to the sale in 2000 to National Express.

He then served as Chairman of Grand Central, the open access rail operator, prior to its sale to DB in 2011.

At various times, Giles has served as Chairman of the Association of Train Operating Companies and President and then Chairman until 2011, of the Confederation of Passenger Transport.

First Bus – Britain’s biggest metropolitan operator

FirstGroup is one of the UK’s largest bus operators with around a fifth of bus services outside London.

A fleet of 5,200 buses carries 500m passengers annually, serving two-thirds of the UK’s 15 largest conurbations.

It also operates the Aircoach network in Ireland. Making journeys easier for our customers, it was the first national bus operator to accept contactless card payments across all of its services.

Its most recent investments are in new, state-of-the-art buses across its key networks.

It works proactively with our local authority partners, making a positive impact on air quality, tackling congestion and improving customer experience.

“We are focused on First Bus becoming a leader in the transition to a low-carbon future and are committed to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035,” says the business.

FirstGroup: UK and USA, trains and buses

FirstGroup plc (LSE: FGP.L) is a leading provider of transport services in the UK and North America.

With £7.8 billion in revenue in 2020 and around 100,000 employees, it carried 2.1 billion passengers.

Says the Group: “Whether for business, education, health, social or recreation – we get our customers where they want to be, when they want to be there. We create solutions that reduce complexity, making travel smoother and life easier.

“We provide easy and convenient mobility, improving quality of life by connecting people and communities.

“Each of our five divisions is a leader in its field: In North America, First Student is the largest provider of home-to-school student transportation with a fleet of 43,000 yellow school buses, First Transit is one of the largest providers of outsourced transit management and contracting services, while Greyhound is the only nationwide operator of scheduled intercity coaches.”

In the UK, First Bus is one of Britain’s largest bus companies with 1.4 million passengers a day in 2020, and First Rail is one of the country’s most experienced rail operators, carrying 340 million passengers in the year.  www.firstgroupplc.com