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First Essex
Slogan"transforming travel"
Parent companyFirst Group
FoundedVarious dates
Service areaEssex
Service typeBus
Daily ridership79,450
Fuel typeDiesel
Web siteFirst Essex website

Template:Missing information First Essex Buses Limited is owned by First Group. First Essex carries around 29 million passengers each year on a network of routes serving Essex and the surrounding areas. It arose from an amalgamation of Eastern National and Thamesway Buses, whose yellow/maroon livery has only recently disappeared. Both companies originated in the Eastern National Omnibus Company, founded in 1929, nationalised in 1949 and privatised in 1986.

The company operates around 400 vehicles on 95 routes and employs 950 people in Essex, and competes to some extent with several other local operators with services in the same areas, such as Arriva Southend, Hedingham, NIBS, Stephensons of Essex.

Current Depots[]

First Essex has 4 bus depots in the towns of Chelmsford (CF), Basildon (BN), Colchester (CR) and Hadleigh (HH)

The bus types listed are subject to change, especially in the case of individual vehicles.


This garage runs bus routes 5, 5A, 5B, 8, 8A, 9, 10, 16, 21, 22, 25, 94, 94A, 94B, 94C, 94D, 100, 251 and X10


Basildon depot is on Cherrydown East. It was opened by Eastern National in 1961 to replace premises at Bull Road, Vange.[1]

Basildon ran the Brentwood town services between 1995 (when Brentwood depot closed) and 1998 (when Harold Wood depot was established). When First London took over Harold Wood in 2004, Basildon again took on the Brentwood town services (which were not London Buses routes). Now, Brentwood town services are operated by Chelmsford Depot.

Bus types in use[]


This depot runs routes 13, 13A, 14, 31, 31B, 31C, 31D, 31X, 32, 36, 36A, 36B, 36X, 37, 40, 42, 42A, 42B, 45, 45A, 46, 47, 51, 54, 54A, 54C, 56, 56A, 56B, 56C, 57, 57A, 57B, 57C, 70, 71, 71A, 71B, 71D, 71X, 73, 73A, 80A, 80C, 351, 565, X30 and Chelmsford Park & Ride.


When the old Chelmsford Duke Street bus depot/bus station was redeveloped in autumn 2004, operations moved to a new site at Westway. The new Duke Street bus station opened in March 2007.

Chelmsford had outstations at Great Dunmow and Maldon until 2004. Maldon had been a full depot until 1993. Dunmow has reopened in 2008 but has now closed.

Bus types in use[]


This depot runs routes 1A, 2A, 61, 62, 62B, 64, 64A, 65, 66, 66B, 67, 67B, 68, 70, 71, 71A, 71B, 71D, 71X, 74B, 75, 76, 88, 88A, 88B, 102, 103, 104, 174 and 175.


The garage in Queen Street is the main First garage in Colchester. It was built in 1920 on the site of the Theatre Royal, burnt down circa 1917. Buses were kept in the old Colchester Corporation tram shed at Magdalen Street after it was vacated by Network Colchester in 2006. This ceased in July 2009 when the yard next door was used instead, also previous occupied by Network Colchester. First has another Colchester site at Haven Road, which is mainly used for engineering.

Until 1973, Eastern National had a one bus outstation at West Mersea, acquired from Primrose Bus Service in 1935.[1] The building there survives, but in 1979 it was heavily modified, to become part of a new leisure centre. Service buses still terminate outside, and locals still refer to it as "West Mersea bus station".

Until 1969, Eastern National also had a one bus outstation at Brightlingsea (Victoria Place). This was acquired with the business of Berry & Sons in 1937.[1]

Bus types in use[]


This garage runs routes 20, 21, 21B, 26, 27, 27A, 27X and 28


Hadleigh garage is located on London Road, just west of Hadleigh shopping centre. It is a former Westcliff on Sea Motor Services depot, controlled by Eastern National from 1955.[1]

Hadleigh took on the work of Canvey (CY) depot in April 1978. Canvey has since become a transport museum.

Hadleigh further expanded its operations in 1992, after Southend (Prittlewell) (PL) depot was closed. The predecessor of Prittlewell, Southend (SD) depot on London Road, closed in 1987, and has now disappeared under a Sainsbury's store.

Bus types in use[]

Former Depots[]


This garage ran routes X32, 17, 21/A, 30, 70, 131, 132, 302, 306, 318, 347 and Yellow School Bus service 509.


The current depot, on Springwood Drive, opened in April 2005. It replaced the long standing premises on Fairfield Road, in Braintree town centre, which was redeveloped for retail/residential use.

Springwood Drive was originally an outstation of Chelmsford, consisting of a secure yard and portakabin. There were vehicle washing facilities and fuelling but heavy maintenance was done at Chelmsford. The portakabin had previously been at Maldon outstation (closed 2004).

In 2009 First re-opened a full depot in Braintree, behind the secure yard in Springwood Drive. This now contains washing/fuelling facilities and heavy maintenance facilities, while the Secure Yard now houses the 'reserve' fleet.

Fairfield Road had originally been used by Hicks Brothers, a bus operator which Eastern National took over in 1949.[1] A house adjacent to the old depot site survives, to remind us of a link with the Hicks era.

Bus types in use[]

  • Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer
  • Volvo B7RLE
  • Volvo Olympian
  • NB: Vehicles were frequently exchanged with Chelmsford depot, for maintenance purposes.


This depot ran routes 5/B, 7/X, 8, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 74, 76 .


Clacton depot has been at Telford Road, on the Gorse Lane Industrial Estate since 1988, at premises previously occupied by Coastal Red, a competitor on the Tendring Peninsular bought by Eastern National. Telford Road replaced the garage at Castle Road, near Clacton town centre, which was redeveloped as flats.

There was an outstation of Clacton at Walton on the Naze, until May 1996. This was a small garage at Kino Road, just off the seafront, and housed 4 vehicles. Walton had the depot code of WN. Walton garage was demolished in 1998, with bungalows built on the site. However the enquiry office survives, as a gift shop.

The predecessor of Walton garage was Warners Iron Foundry at Naze Park Road, a building stands to this day.[1] This had its origins with Silver Queen.

Bus types in use[]

Great Dunmow[]

This outstation ran route 33.


Dunmow was an outstation of Braintree. It reopened in 2008, having been closed in 2004, after the new Chelmsford depot opened. It was located on the premises of Dons Coaches.

Bus types operated[]

  • Usually one Dennis Dart


This garage ran routes 3, 4, 20/A, 22A/B, 103, 104 and school service 193.


The depot at Harwich Bus Station, off Main Road, was opened by Eastern National in 1974. It replaced the old Dovercourt depot at Kingsway, whose building is now used as a public library. The DT depot code (for Dovercourt) was retained for the new premises.

Bus types in use[]


The company has been criticised by passengers and members of the Southend Area Bus Users' Group for withdrawing services which it considered no longer economically viable, for which First said was due to low passenger numbers, even when parts of the route were profitable when Southend Borough Council withdrew bus subsidies as part of budget cuts in 2005.[2] Further criticism came from passengers when First Essex and Arriva Southend decided to withdraw their "Day Rover" ticket, which allowed unlimited journeys on the day of purchase on buses operated by both companies, regardless of which company issued the ticket, so day tickets can now only be used on the buses of the company that issues them. They replaced it with a more expensive "Octopus" ticket which is issued by and can be used on any buses operated by companies running in the general Southend area.[3]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Eastern National and its Predecessors - 60 Years of Service to Essex 1930 - 1990; edited by GWH Dodson
  2. Laura Smith (January 17, 2008). Echo News: Pensioners want better bus services. Archived from the original on 2011-01-01. Retrieved on 2008-07-23.
  3. Michelle Archard (December 11, 2008). Echo News: ‘Fury at plans to cut bus services to two an hour’. Archived from the original on 2011-01-01. Retrieved on 2009-07-23.

External links[]

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