THE future of Worcester's buses is now uncertain after the parent owners of one of the county's major operators put it up for sale.

The Worcester News has been told that older buses have been coming back into the fleet and there is a speculation the development could even lead to newer buses moving to other areas.

This paper has also seen a memo to staff saying they should "keep the wheels rolling and try and keep a positive attitude to the decision and the future".

First Group announced it would be "pursuing strategic options, through a sale or other means" to offload the bus part of its business in a statement on Thursday.

First, which along with Diamond is the biggest bus operator in Worcestershire, has said it will continue to run services as usual and staff will be kept up to date in the coming months.

First Bus employs around 17,500 staff, including 13,450 drivers.

In the memo to staff First's managing director Nigel Eggerton said: "The decision has no bearing whatsoever on the performance, dedication and commitment shown by our local teams over the years, it is solely a business decision.

"We will continue to serve our customers and run our local businesses to the same high standard we are used to."

Analysts say the move is seen as appeasing the company's shareholders who had pressed for a break-up of the group. Details of the overhaul came as FirstGroup posted pre-tax losses of £97.9 million for the year to March 31 against £326.9 million the previous year.

Last year First Bus relaunched the 144 and 144A as Salt Road buses and last month they launched the new Edward Elgar-themed Nimrod bus route.

But the source who leaked the staff statement said: "You may see more and more older buses coming back and newer buses being moved on.

"They have spoken over the last few months about rebranding and revamping when in fact they have transferred the newer buses to Leicester and brought older, refurbished, vehicles back in."

A First Group spokesman said: “We announced that we will be pursuing strategic options, through a sale or other means, to separate First Bus from FirstGroup.

“Please be assured that as this process unfolds, we will continue to operate our services as usual, working closely with our local authority partners and demonstrating our commitment to our customers through the service we offer them.

“In recent years we have improved customer service at First Bus by investing in our buses and new technology, transforming our networks, and making operations and maintenance more efficient.

“As a result, First Bus is now on a much stronger footing, and we believe it is the right time to pursue structural alternatives so the business can continue to provide excellent service, ensure the best possible future for our staff and continue to meet stakeholders’ requirements

“The hard work and commitment of our employees has ensured that First Bus is now well placed for the future and we will keep them up-to-date over the coming months.”

Readers have had their say to the announcement on Worcester News' social media.

Hazell Sarah said: "Let's hope someone buys it that knows how to run a bus service," while Joanne Brixton said: "We always end up with second hand buses and they are always breaking down."

Dave Green said: "Think buses do a good job considering the amount of traffic congestion, always easy to criticise from the sidelines, yet no one has offered a better option."

Jamie Holmes said: "Whoever runs the services will just be the same - no difference to staff or customers."