TRANSPORT giant Stagecoach has bought First Group bus operations in Chester, Wrexham and the Wirral for £4.5 million.
Perth-based Stagecoach has snapped up about 110 buses and three depots with about 290 employees expected to be transferred from First Group.
Services changing hands include those in Blacon, Handbridge and Saltney along with school buses in Wrexham and buses between Chester and Liverpool.
Les Warneford, managing director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: "This acquisition will extend our operations in the North West of England, particularly in Merseyside.
“We believe there is significant scope to develop these businesses and improve their financial performance by investing in the quality of the bus fleet, as well as offering customers our good value fares and attractive network tickets."
The purchase is being made through Stagecoach subsidiary Glenvale Transport and is expected to be completed next month or in January.
In the last financial year, the operations had revenues worth £11.9 million and posted an operating profit of about £600,000.
Depots changing hands include Liverpool Road in Chester, New Chester Road in Rock Ferry and the leased depot at Rhosddu Industrial Estate in Wrexham.
Operations will become part of Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire. First Group bought the depots in Chester and Rock Ferry from Crosville in 1990 and purchased municipal bus company ChesterBus from the then Chester City Council in 2007.
Last month First Group sold its bus operations in Wigan to Stagecoach.
Giles Fearnley, managing director of First UK Bus, said: "Birkenhead and Chester are businesses where we have previously seen lower than average margins and they are not core to our operations.
“They fit better with Stagecoach's existing portfolio in the area and also allow us to realise efficiencies in support costs.
"We are progressing our detailed programme to recover performance and equip our UK bus business to achieve sustainable revenue and patronage growth.”