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East Anglia: First Eastern Counties’ investment pledge welcomed by East Suffolk Travellers’ Association

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 March 2014

First Eastern Counties bus

First Eastern Counties bus

Archant

A bus operator’s pledge to end “slash-and-burn” service cuts and begin a new era of investment has been welcomed by public-transport users.

David Squire, managing director at First Eastern Counties, told the East Suffolk Travellers’ Association that his company was trying to “ditch its old image” by appointing a number of new people with “bright ideas”.

Speaking at the meeting in Woodbridge, Mr Squire said: “We‘ve suffered from a lack of investment, but this year we are going to turn that around.

“We want to move from a vicious cycle of cuts into a virtuous cycle of growth, with the right people, the right vehicles and the right back-up.”

The company had been “stuck with some extremely large debts”, he said, but had managed to cut those by working with shareholders.

Outlining company-wide proposals to bring 425 new buses under the fleet, Mr Squire stated his intention to bid for a share of those vehicles to serve Suffolk and Norfolk. Part of that fleet, he said, could be made up of hybrid buses that run on a mixture of diesel and electricity.

“These vehicles are far more economic that conventional diesel buses and I hope that we see a number of new buses in the fleet this year,” he said.

Other innovations announced at the meeting included the introduction of “smart ticketing” devices, similar to the Oyster cards used on London Transport. “It’s all about simplifying things to make it easier to get around,” said Mr Squire.

Trevor Garrod, the association’s chairman, said he was “quite encouraged” by the comments made.

“It will be interesting to see whether the reforms put forward over recent months will bear the fruit we’re hoping,” he added.

“In the past we’ve sometimes found that when dealing with very distant management things don’t necessarily move very fast, so hopefully the changes will improve that. He gave us considerable cause for hope.”

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