By Karen Peattie

THE former chief executive of P&O Ferries, Janette Bell, is to succeed Giles Fearnley as managing director of First Bus in October.

Ms Bell led P&O through its Brexit preparations and its response to the coronavirus pandemic. She joined the ferry operator in 2012 as commercial director, becoming chief executive in 2018.

Mr Fearnley, who is retiring after a long career in public transport and has been managing director since 2011, is credited with transforming First Bus by investing in fleets and systems, including digitisation. In 2018, it was the first major operator to offer contactless payment and in July announced its commitment to operate a zero-emission fleet by 2035.

FirstGroup chief executive Matthew Gregory noted Ms Bell’s experience and track record in “creating and delivering successful customer and commercial strategies, making her the right person to build on the progress achieved so far as we work towards our ambition to be the partner of choice for innovative, sustainable transport”. He said that Mr Fearnley’s leadership during the coronavirus crisis has “helped ensure First Bus can continue to provide essential services and emerge from the current situation in the most robust position possible”.