FirstGroup operates bus, coach, rail & tram services in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada & Ireland
|Traded as||LSE: FGP|
|Headquarters||Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom|
|United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Ireland|
Wolfhart Hauser Chairman |
Tim O'Toole, Chief Executive
|Products||Bus, coach, rail, tram & yellow school bus services|
|Revenue||£6,050.7 million (March 2015)|
|£245.8 million (March 2015)|
|£85.5 million (March 2015)|
Number of employees
|114,370 (March 2015)|
FirstGroup is a British transport group, registered and operating in the United Kingdom. The company also operates transport services in Ireland, Canada and the United States. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
FirstGroup originated from the deregulation of bus services in the United Kingdom in 1986, whereby private companies purchased nationalised and municipal bus operators.
In September 1986 the Somerset based services of the Bristol Omnibus Company that were rebranded in 1985 as Badgerline were purchased by a management buyout. As Badgerline Group, it expanded through acquisition purchasing other formerly nationalised bus companies in England and Wales.
In January 1989 Grampian Regional Transport, the bus operator in Aberdeen owned by Grampian Regional Council, was privatised in a management buyout led by its then general manager Moir Lockhead. As GRT Bus Group, it expanded through acquisition purchasing six former nationalised bus companies in England and Scotland.
In April 1995 FirstBus was formed through the merger of the Badgerline and GRT Bus Groups, with fleets in England, Wales and Scotland. Aberdeen was selected as the headquarters.
At the time of the merger, FirstBus had 5,600 buses, 4,000 of which came from Badgerline. Badgerline's Trevor Smallwood became chairman of FirstBus, while GRT head Moir Lockhead became deputy chairman and chief executive.
FirstBus continued the policy of growth by acquisition acquiring former council owned operations and companies formerly owned by English, Welsh and Scottish nationalised operators. FirstBus went on to acquire larger urban metropolitan operators by taking advantage of the privatisation of the PTE bus operations and the privatisation of London bus services. FirstBus acquired GM Buses North in Manchester and Strathclyde Buses in Glasgow in 1996, Mainline in South Yorkshire and CentreWest in London in 1997, and Capital Citybus in London in 1998.
The company was renamed FirstGroup in December 1997 after the company moved into railways in February 1996 with the Privatisation of British Rail, through a 24.5% shareholding in Great Western Holdings that won the Great Western and North Western franchises, and a 100% shareholding in First Great Eastern that ran the Great Eastern franchise from January 1997. In March 1998 FirstGroup purchased the 75.5% shares in Great Western Holdings it did not already own and rebranded the franchises First Great Western and First North Western.
In September 1998 FirstGroup made its first overseas foray when New World First Bus commenced operating bus services in Hong Kong formerly operated by China Motor Bus. FirstGroup had a 26% shareholding in the joint venture. In May 2000 FirstGroup sold its shares to joint venture partner New World Development.
In September 1999 FirstGroup purchased Ryder Public Transport Services, a provider of school bus transportation in the United States.
In August 2003 FirstGroup purchased GB Railways which owned Anglia Railways and GB Railfreight and held 80% of the shares in Hull Trains. Having not been shortlisted for the Greater Anglia franchise, this gave FirstGroup another chance to bid. However it was unsuccessful and the franchise was awarded to National Express from April 2004 including the services operated by First Great Eastern.
In February 2004 FirstGroup's joint venture with Keolis commenced operating the First TransPennine Express rail franchise, FirstGroup having a 55% shareholding. In April 2004 FirstGroup commenced operating the First Great Western Link franchise and in October 2004 the First ScotRail franchise. In December 2004 the remainder of First North Western passed to Northern Rail, some services having already been transferred to Arriva Trains Wales and FirstTranspennine Express.
In April 2006 FirstGroup commenced operating the First Capital Connect franchise and a renewed First Great Western franchise that had been expanded to include the Thames Trains and Wessex Trains franchises.
In February 2007 FirstGroup agreed to buy the US-based firm Laidlaw, an operator of inter-city coaches and yellow school buses across North America, for £1.9 billion (US$3.7 billion). This also gave it a controlling stake in Greyhound Lines, the largest bus operator in North America. The Greyhound name and the names of Canadian subsidiaries of Greyhound Canada were retained, and all other Laidlaw-owned services in the United States and Canada were rebranded under the First or Greyhound names, except for Voyageur Colonial and Grey Goose in Canada.
In January 2009 DSBFirst, FirstGroup's joint venture with Danish State Railways commenced operating the Oresundtrain rail franchise from Helsingør and Nivå in Denmark along the Kystbanen line and over the Øresund Bridge to Malmö, Växjö, Kalmar, Karlskrona and Gothenburg in Sweden. FirstGroup had a 25% shareholding in the Danish business and 20% in the Swedish business. By March 2011 this was 30%.
In June 2009 FirstGroup made a takeover offer for fellow transport operator National Express Group, which was struggling with debt at the time and was struggling to hold onto its National Express East Coast rail franchise. This was rejected, National Express saying it did not "consider it appropriate" at the time to discuss a takeover. FirstGroup believed that there was "significant industrial and commercial logic" for a merger, but National Express wished to focus on its own initiatives.
In September 2010 former London Underground managing director Tim O'Toole, already a board member since May 2009 and Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive since June 2010, was announced as the successor to retiring group Chief Executive Officer Moir Lockhead with effect from 31 March 2011.
In December 2011 DSBFirst ceased operating the Swedish part of the operation after difficulties encountered by Danish State Railways over cross subsidies.
In July 2012 FirstGroup provided bus and coach services for the London 2012 Olympic Games. This involved the provision of venue shuttle and park and ride services, services connecting peripheral park and ride sites on the M25 with the Olympic Park and Ebbsfleet, and a nationwide network of express coaches to the Olympic Park and the Weymouth and Portland sailing venue. The services required around 900 vehicles in total, although some were sub-contracted.
In April 2015 FirstGroup was unsuccessful in bidding for the ScotRail franchise, which is now run by Abellio ScotRail. In December 2015, FirstGroup was awarded the next TransPennine Express franchise. The new franchise commenced on 1 April 2016 with a commitment to introduce new trains, routes and faster journey times.
In February 2016 the Department for Transport announced that FirstGroup had been shortlisted to operate the South West Trains franchise. The bidding process is currently underway with the winner due to be announced in early 2017.
In May 2016 East Coast Trains was granted a 10 track-access agreement to operate services on the East Coast Main Line from 2021. In October 2016 First Transit will commence operating the A-train under contract to the Denton County Transportation Authority, its first rail operation in the United States.
FirstGroup is Britain's largest bus operator, running more than 20% of all local bus services. A fleet of nearly 9,000 buses carries some 2.9 million passengers a day in more than 40 major towns and cities. FirstGroup also runs passenger rail services in the UK. Passenger rail franchises consist of Great Western Railway and TransPennine Express. It also operates Hull Trains (80% shareholding), a non-franchised open access passenger train service. FirstGroup operates tram services on the London Tramlink network carrying approximately 24 million passengers a year on behalf of Transport for London.
In North America, FirstGroup has several divisions: First Student, which runs school bus routes; First Transit, which holds many city and county public transport contracts; and First Vehicle Services, which maintains vehicles for many corporations, organisations and local governments, including the other First divisions and Greyhound lines. Canadian operations are provided through its First Student Canada subsidiary, which operates school buses and fulfills public transport contracts.
FirstGroup owns and operates the Aircoach service in Dublin, linking Dublin Airport with the city centre, the south side of Dublin, Greystones and Bray as well as long-distance express services runs to Cork and Belfast. Aircoach also operates car park shuttles at Dublin Airport. Until 2009 Aircoach did not carry corporate branding. Buses introduced since January 2009 on Aircoach carry a FirstGroup logo alongside the Aircoach logo.
Corporate branding and liveries
FirstGroup has always had a consistent brand and uses the First brand for most of its operations. FirstBus began to apply a standard corporate typeface to its fleet names in the late 1990s, introducing the stylised f logo depicting a road. A corporate white, pink and blue livery was introduced, nicknamed "Barbie", to new buses, while further bus company acquisitions continued. Inherited bus fleets were initially left in their original colours with First fleet names, with the intention that the Barbie scheme would stand for a set service quality. Later older buses received a modified "Barbie 2" livery.
As part of its corporate branding, First subsequently removed all local branding for its bus services, buses simply carried the 'First' brand, although each company still operated independently. In 2012, the group began to introduce a new purple, white and lilac livery to its bus fleets, which also reinstated local branding. In January 2014, the company rebranded its First Somerset & Avon operations in Bridgwater and Taunton as The Buses of Somerset, using a two-tone green livery.
First TransPennine Express and Hull Trains carry a predominantly blue livery, including white, pink and purple. This was also used by First Great Western until 20 September 2015, when the First Great Western operation was re-branded as Great Western Railway, with a new logo and dark green livery paying homage to the original Great Western Railway.
London Tramlink operations are painted in white, green and blue as per Transport for London requirements. In Scotland, First ScotRail operated with a blue livery with white saltire markings on the carriage ends, as mandated by the Scottish Government's transport agency Transport Scotland.
Similarly, in North America, all owned and operated services are operated under the First or Greyhound brands except in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Manitoba for regulatory reasons, and vehicles operated under contract to public agencies, which carry the branding of the agency that owns the particular bus. All American subsidiaries of Greyhound Lines are now operated under the Greyhound name. Greyhound UK services in the United Kingdom were painted in the same navy blue and grey livery introduced to the American Greyhound fleet in 2009.
Current operating companies
Bus & coach
- First Aberdeen (formerly First Grampian)
- First Berkshire & The Thames Valley (formerly First Beeline)
- First Bristol & First Somerset & Avon (formerly First Cityline, First Badgerline)
- First Cymru
- First Eastern Counties (Sometimes referred to as First Norfolk & Suffolk)
- First Essex (formerly First Eastern National, First Thamesway)
- First Glasgow (formerly First Kelvin and First Greater Glasgow)
- First Greater Manchester
- First Pioneer (part of First Greater Manchester)
- First Hampshire & Dorset (formerly First Southampton, First Provincial and the Dorset operations of First Southern National)
- First Leicester
- First Midland Red (sometimes referred to as First Wyvern)
- First Northern Ireland
- First Potteries (operating in Staffordshire and South Cheshire, formerly First PMT/PMT Limited)
- First Scotland East (formerly First SMT, First Borders and First Midland Bluebird)
- First Falkirk
- First East Lothian
- First Bluebird
- First South West (formerly First Western National & North Devon Red Bus)
- The Buses of Somerset includes Somerset services of the former First Southern National
- First South Yorkshire
- First West Yorkshire
- First York (including the York Park & Ride)
- First Rail Support provide emergency and planned rail replacement transport to train operating companies using First and non First Transport through its 24-hour control room in Simonstone, Lancashire.
- First Student (school, charter bus and public transit services)
- Greyhound Canada (intercity bus services)
- First Transit (bus and rapid transit)
- First Student (school bus services)
- Greyhound (intercity bus services)
- Great Western Railway (formerly First Great Western)
- Heathrow Connect joint venture with Heathrow Airport Holdings (until May 2018)
- Hull Trains (80% shareholding)
- London Tramlink
- TransPennine Express
Former operating companies
Bus & coach
- FirstGroup Rhein-Neckar sold September 2011 to Marwyn European Transport
- First Chester and the Wirral ceased operation January 2013, subsequently sold to Stagecoach and is now part of Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire.
- First Northampton ceased 14 September 2013
- First London from March 1997 until September 2013, most operations sold to Go-Ahead London, Metroline and Tower Transit, remainder ceased upon expiry of contracts in September 2013
- Greyhound UK coach services between September 2009 and December 2015
- First Great Eastern from January 1997 until April 2004, incorporated into Greater Anglia franchise subsequently operated by National Express as One
- First North Western from March 1997 until December 2004, operations split between Arriva Trains Wales, First TransPennine Express and Northern Rail
- First GBRf from August 2003 until sold in June 2010 to Eurotunnel Group, rebranded as GB Railfreight
- First Capital Connect from April 2006 until September 2014, succeeded by Govia Thameslink Railway
- First ScotRail from October 2004 until March 2015, succeeded by Abellio ScotRail & Caledonian Sleeper
- First TransPennine Express (55% shareholding) from February 2004 until March 2016, succeeded by TransPennine Express with FirstGroup having 100% ownership
Denmark & Sweden
Future operating companies
- East Coast Trains to commence operating in 2021
- "FirstGroup Annual Report 31 March 2015" (PDF). FirstGroup plc. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
- Companies House extract company no SC157176 FirstGroup plc
- FirstGroup plc Ord 5p London Stock Exchange
- "RESEARCH PAPER 99/59" (PDF). www.parliament.uk/. 8 June 1999. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- "The badger is back in the West of England". Passenger Transport. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
- Interview with Moir Lockhead. 11 April 2006
- "Men in lemon celebrate First's 20 years". Buses Magazine. Ian Allan Publishing (648). March 2009.
- Badgerline links with GRT The Independent 5 April 1995
- Buses Magazine, Issue 648, March 2009, Ian Allan.
- "£75m of additional passenger benefits agreed with FirstGroup" (Press release). Department for Transport. 6 March 1998.
- "Conditions met for FirstGroup takeover of Great Western" (Press release). Department for Transport. 30 March 1998.
- FirstGroup Annual Report 31 March 1999 FirstGroup plc
- UK bus operator wins £55m franchise The Independent 1 April 1998
- Milestones 2000 NWS Holdings Limited
- FirstGroup to Buy Ryder Unit Europolitics 8 September 1999
- "Croydon Tramlink Light Rail Network". International Railway Journal. London. June 2000.
- GB Rail Offer Unconditional FirstGroup plc corporate news 14 August 2003
- National Express Group Announced as Preferred Bidder for new Greater Anglia Franchise
- Aircoach Announces 15m Euro Deal Aircoach news 7 November 2003
- SRA Announce Preferred Bidder for TransPennine Express Franchise Strategic Rail Authority announcement 28 July 2003
- Keolis in the UK Keolis SA
- Preferred Bidder Announced for New Thames Trains Franchise Strategic Rail Authority announcement 4 November 2003
- FirstGroup clinches Scottish rail franchise The Telegraph 12 June 2004
- Serco joint venture selected as preferred bidder for Northern Rail train operating franchise Serco Group 1 July 2004
- Department for Transport Announces Winner of Thameslink/GN Franchise Department for Transport press release 13 December 2005
- Greater Western Franchise Archived 4 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Department for Transport publication 2 February 2006
- Wessex Train Company News Tessa
- "FirstGroup buys Greyhound buses". BBC News. 9 February 2007.
- FirstGroup starts operations in Scandinavia FirstGroup plc news 12 January 2009
- FirstGroup Annual Report 31 March 2011 FirstGroup plc
- "National Express turns down bid". BBC News. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
- "FirstGroup plc: Disposal of rail freight business" (Press release). FirstGroup. 1 June 2010.
- Rose, Michael (1 June 2010). "Eurotunnel buys GBRf from FirstGroup". Reuters.
- "First GBRf bought by Eurotunnel". RailNews. Stevenage. 1 June 2010.
- Miles, Tony (November 2010). "O'Toole takes over from Lockhead at FirstGroup". Modern Railways. London. p. 7.
- Milmo, Dan (22 September 2010). "Tim O'Toole confirmed as new FirstGroup chief executive". guardian.co.uk.
- FirstGroup sells German bus unit BBC News 30 September 2011
- DSB CEO dismissed over accounting irregularities Railway Gazette International 1 April 2011
- Veolia takes over Öresund train services thelocal.se 28 June 2011
- Veolia takes over from troubled DSBFirst Railway Gazette International 28 June 2011
- "Statement re Bus and Coach contract at London 2012 Games" (Press release). FirstGroup. 15 February 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
- FirstGroup Announces Sale of Eight London Bus Depots FirstGroup 9 April 2013
- "Northern and TransPennine Express franchises awarded". Railway Gazette International. 9 December 2015.
- "Stagecoach and FirstGroup shortlisted for South Western franchise". Railway Gazette International. 4 February 2016.
- Applications for the East Coast Main Line Office of Rail and Road 12 May 2016
- FirstGroup signs first US rail commuter contract FirstGroup 20 July 2016
- FirstGroup awarded its first US rail contact Railway Gazette International 21 July 2016
- "Tramlink". Transport for London. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- First Student About Us First Student
- First Transit About Us First Transit
- First Vehicle Services About Us First Vehicle Services
- "Aircoach". FirstGroup. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
- Makeover for First Aberdeen's Bus Fleet First Group plc press release 13 June 2012
- First introduces The Buses of Somerset Euro Transport 30 January 2014
- First drops corporate look in Somerset Bus & Coach Professional 5 February 2014
- "First Great Western unveils rebranded Great Western Railway trains". BBC News. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- ScotRail 25th Anniversary Publicity Materials Archived 6 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Transport Scotland
- Greyhound Services & Routes Greyhound America
- "Crossrail Timetable". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
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