John Birtwistle

Head of Policy

FirstGroup plc’s UK Bus Division

Biography

John is Head of Policy for FirstGroup plc’s UK Bus Division.  He leads initiatives on a variety of subjects including local authority partnerships, network reviews, business opportunities, concessionary travel, Bus Rapid Transit, vehicle technology, legal issues, European policy and legislation, ticketing schemes etc.  John acts as a representative of First, and of the UK bus industry, on a number of Governmental and industry committees.  He sits on the Executive of the Rural Services Partnership, the Traveline and Journey Solutions boards and was the 2016 President of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the UK bus and coach trade association. He has advised on the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit in the UK and USA.

“2017 – a watershed year for the bus sector”

2017 has seen the first bus specific legislation in living memory in England and Wales.  New obligations have been placed on bus operators and new opportunities presented to operators and local authorities.  Now the Scottish Government is looking to follow suit.  Furthermore, ever growing concern about air quality problems appear to be considering buses as the source of the problems whereas they should be considered to be part of the solution.  And operators are faced with ever increasing costs as the decision of the UK to leave the European Union makes driver recruitment ever harder.  “Mobility as a service” providers are a new source of competition for our historic markets.  Local authority tendered service budgets are being cut once again.  So, we have tough times ahead, but it’s up to us to take the initiative and present our product as part of the future of sustainable travel and economic development.