NATIONAL Express is in talks with First Group to take over the bus service, this paper has been told.

But National Express, the bus and coach operator that run services across the county, is remaining tight lipped over any possible bid.

Earlier this month First Group, which along with Diamond is the biggest bus operator in Worcestershire, announced it would be "pursuing strategic options, through a sale or other means" to offload the bus part of its business.

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First Bus employs around 17,500 staff, including 13,450 drivers, and in a memo to them after the announcement First's managing director, Nigel Eggerton, said it was "solely a business decision".

At the time the source who leaked the staff statement told us: "You may see more and more older buses coming back and newer buses being moved on."

A spokesman for the operator 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 and demonstrating our commitment to our customers through the service we offer them."

This paper has now been told, by another source, that National Express is one of the bidders to buy the bus operation, that recently launched the Salt Road and Nimrod buses.

After being approached a spokesman from the Birmingham-based firm said: "National Express does not comment on rumour or speculation."

Although widely known as a coach operator National Express West Midlands, a subsidiary of the larger firm, operates bus services in Birmingham, Dudley and Wolverhampton.

First Group was unavailable for comment.

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