First Essex

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First Essex
First Essex bus 44542 (YX13 AHV), 12 May 2013 (cropped).jpg
Service areaEssex
Service typeBus services
Routes130 (April 2016)
Fleet381 (July 2014)
WebsiteFirst Essex website

First Essex[1] is a bus company operating services in the county of Essex. It is a subsidiary of FirstGroup.


Volvo 7900 hybrid at Lakeside Shopping Centre in September 2013
Alexander ALX400 at Colchester Bus Station in December 2015
Alexander Dash bodied Dennis Dart in Clacton-on-Sea in August 2009

First Essex arose from an amalgamation of Eastern National and Thamesway Buses. First Essex was originally part of the Eastern National Omnibus Company, founded in 1929, nationalised in 1949 and privatised in a management buyout 1986.[2] In 1990 Eastern National was sold to Badgerline (who became part of FirstGroup in 1995) and split, the depots in North Essex continuing to operate as Eastern National, those in South Essex being transferred to a new division, Thamesway.[3] Both were later amalgamated again and rebranded First Essex.[2]

First Essex was criticised by passengers and members of the Southend Area Bus Users' Group for withdrawing services which it considered no longer economically viable when Southend Borough Council withdrew bus subsidies as part of budget cuts in 2005. First said it was due to low passenger numbers, even when parts of the route were profitable .[4] 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 that day tickets could only be used on the buses of the company that issued them. They replaced it with a more expensive "Octopus" ticket issued by and can be used on any buses operated by companies running in the general Southend area.[5]


First Essex operates four bus depots in the city of Chelmsford and towns of Basildon, Colchester and Hadleigh. The outstation at Great Dunmow has closed, with services transferring to Chelmsford depot. The Harwich Depot was closed in late 2013, all of its services are now run by the Clacton and Colchester depots. The Braintree depot was closed in late 2015. all of its services are now either run by Stephensons of Essex (21, 131, 132 (converted to 38/38A respectively), Panther Travel (Route 30) Chelmsford (21, 70, 352) and Colchester (70, 352) depots respectively.


Basildon garage operates routes 5, 8/A, 9/A, 10, X10, 16, 21, 25, 94/A/B, 100, 200, 201, 251 and school services 502, 511, 512, 561 and the 825.


Basildon depot is on Cherrydown East. It was opened by Eastern National in 1961 to replace premises at Bull Road, Vange.[6]

After Brentwood depot closed in 1995, Basildon ran the Brentwood town services until 1998 when Harold Wood depot took over. When First London took over Harold Wood in 2004, Basildon again took on the Brentwood town services until 2012 when Chelmsford took over the Brentwood services with the 351 and 73(Basildon taking the 551 turning it into the 9).


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


The former 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 contained 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.[6] A house adjacent to the old depot site survives, to remind us of a link with the Hicks era.


Chelmsford depot operates Chelmsford Park & Ride, routes 13/13A, 14, X30, 31/B/C/X, 32, 33, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42/A/B, 45/A, 46, 47, 51, 54/A, 56/A, 57/A/B/C, 70, 71/C/X, 73/A, 80A/C, 94C, 351, 565 and School Bus services 508, 512, 525, 618, 619, 620

37, 80A/C and 565 are Brentwood town services.


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.

On 20 October 2013 Chelmsford took over the operation of route 888 Luton Airport shuttle from First Northampton.[7]

Clacton (Closed)[edit]

Clacton depot operated routes 5/B, 7/X, 8, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 74, 76 and Former Harwich depot Routes 3, 4, 20/A, 22A/B.


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.[6] This had its origins with Silver Queen.

The depot closed on Saturday 28th July 2018.


Colchester depot operates routes 1A (Sundays & Evenings), 2A (Sundays & Evenings), 17 (School Days), 61, 62/A/B, 64/A, 65, 66/B, 67, 68, 70(Some journeys), 71/X(some journeys), 75/75A, 88/A/B, 97, 98, 99, 100, 102, 103, 104, 106, 174 & 175


The garage in Quayside is the main garage in Colchester. It was built in 2016 to replace the old garage on Queen Street which was 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 previously occupied by Network Colchester. First had another Colchester site at Haven Road, which was mainly used for engineering. This has since been bought by a local company that is not transport orientated, but then in 2015 First demolished the old timber yard [its former use] and built a new bus garage.

Until 1973, Eastern National had a one bus outstation at West Mersea, acquired from Primrose Bus Service in 1935.[6] 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 in Victoria Place, Brightlingsea. This was acquired with the business of Berry & Sons in 1937.[6]

Great Dunmow[edit]

This outstation operates route 33.


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


Hadleigh garage operates routes: 20, 21/A/B, 22, 24/A, 25(Few Workings Mon-Sat), 26, 27/X, 28 and school services 820, 821, 822 and 827


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.[6]

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.

Harwich (Closed)[edit]

Harwich garage in February 2013

Harwich garage formerly ran routes 3, 4, 20/A, 22A/B, 103, 104 and school service 193 and C30. The depot closed in December 2013, services 3, 4, 20/A, 22A/B are operated by Clacton depot, services 103, 104 are operated from Colchester.[8] First still use the site to park buses overnight for the early morning 103/104 services.


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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 1961457 First Buses Essex Limited
  2. ^ a b Eastern National Thurrock Transport
  3. ^ Companies House extract company no 2122144 Thamesway Limited
  4. ^ Laura Smith (17 January 2008). "Echo News: Pensioners want better bus services". Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
  5. ^ Michelle Archard (11 December 2008). "Echo News: 'Fury at plans to cut bus services to two an hour'". Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Eastern National and its Predecessors – 60 Years of Service to Essex 1930 – 1990; edited by GWH Dodson
  7. ^ Office of the Traffic Commissioner Notices and Proceedings September 2013 Office of the Traffic Commissioner 4 September 2013
  8. ^ Harwich Bus depot closure Archived 30 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine Harwich & Manningtree Standard 17 March 2014

External links[edit]