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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 335 vehicles on 70 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, Ensignbusmarker, Regal Busways, NIBS, Stephensons of Essex.


It has been criticised by users and the Southend Area Bus Users' Group for withdrawing services which it considered no longer economically viable due to low passenger numbers even when parts of the route were profitable when Southend Borough Council withdrew bus subsidies of up to £6 per passenger as part of budget cuts in 2005. 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 issuing them. They replaced it with a more expensive "Octopus" ticket which is issued by and can be used on any buses operated by Arriva Southend, First Essex, NIBS, Regal Busways and Stephensons of Essex in the Southend, Rochford and Castle Point districts, covering more bus operators and a wider area of Essex.


First Essex has 7 bus depots in the towns of Chelmsfordmarker (CF), Basildonmarker (BN), Colchestermarker (CR) and Hadleighmarker (HH), and also smaller depots in Clactonmarker (CN), Harwichmarker (DT) and Braintreemarker (BE), and an outstation at Great Dunmow (DW).

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


This garage runs bus routes 5, 8/8A, 25, 25A, 25B, 73, 81, 82, 100, 200, 551 and schoolservices 812, 861. Routes 1/A passed to Stephensons of Essex in April 2009.

73, 81, 82 are Brentwood town services.


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

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, Brentwood again took on the Brentwood town services (which were not London Buses routes).

Bus types in use


This garage runs routes 21, 30, 70, 132 and school 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 consists of a secure yard and portakabin. There are vehicle washing facilities, but fuelling/heavy maintenance is done at Chelmsford. The portakabin had previously been at Maldon outstation (closed 2004).

Fairfield Road had originally been used by Hicks Brothers, a bus operator which Eastern National took over in 1949. 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 42482/6-8, 42932/3
  • Optare Solo 53112-6
  • NB: Vehicles are frequently exchanged with Chelmsford depot, for maintenance purposes.


This depot runs Chelmsford Park & Ride, routes X30, 31, 33, 36, 41, 42, 45, 47, 48/A, 51, 54, 55, 56, 70, 72, 100, 351 and schools services 508, 525


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 since reopened.

Bus types in use

  • Optare Solo 53117-39
  • Dennis Dart/Alexander Dash 47101, 47252
  • Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointer 46132
  • Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer 40736-9, 42483-5/9, 42918-23/30/1/4-6, 43729-31
  • Dennis Lance/Northern Counties 60103
  • BMC Schoolbus 68521/32/4/5/51/2/5
  • Leyland Olympian/Alexander 31198
  • Leyland Olympian/ECW 34807/15/18
  • Mercedes O814D/Plaxton Cheetah 56007-9 - Aircoach livery for X30
  • Scania OmniCity - for Chelmsford Park & Ride 65028-32
  • Volvo B7RLE/Wright Eclipse - transferred from First Manchester 66794-99/802/7-10/28-30
  • Volvo B9R/Plaxton 20801-5 - Aircoach livery for X30
  • Volvo B10M/Plaxton Premiere 350: 20463 - Aircoach livery for X30


This depot runs routes 5, 6, 7/X, 8/A, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 74, 75 (some peak journeys), 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.This had its origins with Silver Queen.

Bus types in use

  • Dennis Dart/Alexander Dash 47102-6, 47223-9
  • Dennis Dart SLF/Alexander ALX200 43739-41
  • Dennis Dart SLF/Marshall 41642/4
  • Volvo Olympian/Northern Counties 34311/4
  • Scania L94UB/Wright Solar 65690-2


This depot runs routes X22, 1E, 2E, 8E, 11, 15, 61, 62, 63, 64/A, 65, 66/A, 67/A/B/C/D/E, 70, 71, 72 (some journeys), 75, 76 (1 journey), 83, 88/B, school services 69, 193, and night bus 999.


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. 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. 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.

Bus types in use

  • Scania L94UB/Wright Solar: 62406-62410, 65672-65679, 65680-65689
  • Scania L94UB/Wright Axcess-Floline: 65650-65654.
  • Dennis Lance/Northern Counties Paladin: 60102, 67003-67008/10/11.
  • Volvo Olympian/Alexander RL: 30558/60, 34284/5/6/90
  • Volvo Olympian/Northern Counties Palatine: 34013-34014, 34018, 34056, 34301-34305, 34307-34310, 34315
  • Mercedes-Benz/Plaxton Cheetah: 56005,branded for Stansted Aircoach (Non Route Specific)"
  • Volvo B10M-62/Plaxton Premiere 320: 20102, 20110, all branded for Stansted Aircoach (Non Route Specific)"
  • Volvo/Plaxton Paragon: 25000-25001 all branded for X22 Stansted aircoach
  • Volvo B7RLE/Wright Eclipse 66811-17
  • Scania L113/Wright 61054/7

Great Dunmow

This outstation works 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.

Bus types operated

  • Usually one Dennis Dart


This garage runs routes 2, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 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.

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

  • Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointer 46150-58/79-82
  • Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer 2 42439, 43715-43721/9-38
  • Dennis Dart SLF/East Lancs Spryte 40777-9, 41005-17, 42852-5/7
  • Leyland Olympian/Alexander 31376
  • Volvo Olympian/Alexander 31456/62


This garage runs routes 3, 4, 20/A, 22A/B, 102, 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

  • Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer 42937
  • Enviro 200s 44516-9
  • Volvo Olympian/Alexander 34280/2/8

See also

External links


  1. Eastern National and its Predecessors - 60 Years of Service to Essex 1930 - 1990; edited by GWH Dodson

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