First Aberdeen

First Aberdeen

Parent FirstGroup
Founded 1986
Headquarters Aberdeen
Service area Aberdeen
Service type Bus services
Routes 31
Fleet 173 (March 2013)

First Aberdeen[1] is the main bus company operator in Aberdeen, Scotland. It is a subsidiary of FirstGroup.


Preserved Alexander AL bodied Leyland Atlantean in Grampian Regional Transport livery

Aberdeen Corporation

Aberdeen Corporation Tramways was formed in 1898. The company became Aberdeen Corporation Transport Department when it became solely a bus operator with trams ceasing on 3 May 1958.

Grampian Regional Transport

See also: GRT Group

Under local government reorganisation in 1975, the Aberdeen Corporation bus operations transferred to Grampian Regional Transport, a department of the Grampian Regional Authority.

To comply with the Transport Act 1985, Grampian Regional Transport was incorporated in 1986,[1] with the Grampian Regional Authority retaining ownership.

In January 1989 the company was privatised under an employee stock ownership plan led by its general manager Moir Lockhead.[2] At the time GRT operated a fleet of 200 buses and 500 employees.[3]

Unlike future similar sales in the UK, the sale of Grampian Regional Transport was done voluntarily by the council which had no overall majority party and had no deep rooted objection to the sale. At the time, councils could negotiate privately with single buyers, rather than the later practice of competitive bidding. It was a sale of a going concern, rather than as seen in other areas in later years, a distress sale, or a forced sale for political reasons.[4]

First Grampian

While the company continued to operate as GRT in Aberdeen, its holding company GRT Bus Group expanded through acquisition purchasing six former nationalised bus companies in England and Scotland. In April 1994 GRT Bus Group became a public limited company. 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.[5]

In February 1998 Grampian Regional Transport was rebranded as First Aberdeen.


Optare Prisma bodied Mercedes-Benz O405 in Grampian Regional Transport livery in March 1998

Aberdeen Corporation had a dark green and white livery, later becoming pea-green and cream. Council owned Grampian Regional Transport changed this livery, by removing the upper green band, replacing it with a thinner orange band, with Grampian fleetnames and a council crest. When privatised, a scheme with a larger area of cream base colour, supplemented by a two-tone green stripe pattern was adopted.

The cream base and stripe layout would become the corporate livery for the GRT Group, albeit with different colours for the stripes. The First Grampian livery consisted of the existing livery, with the fleetname changed to the FirstBus corporate style with the stylised f symbol. FirstGroup corporate livery was adopted in 1998 upon being rebranded as First Aberdeen.


Wright Eclipse Fusion bodied Volvo B7LA articulated on Union Street in August 2011

A mainstay of the fleet in the 1970s up to 1983 was the Alexander AL Type bodied Leyland Atlantean, supplemented by the Leyland National single-decker bus. In 1985 it moved to Alexander RH bodied Leyland Olympian double-deckers until 1988. From 1991 to 1997 the company steadily bought the Mercedes-Benz O405 single-decker.

Grampian Regional Transport was one of the first UK users of articulated buses. Aberdeen is one of the major locations for articulated buses in the United Kingdom with around 35 in the fleet in December 2013.[6]

As at March 2013 the fleet consisted of 173 buses and coaches.[6]

Daytime Services

Alexander ALX300 bodied Volvo B10BLE in King Street in August 2012
Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7RLE in Guild Street in August 2012

A Metro network was introduced on 13 May 2001 as a series of colour-coded high-frequency routes with the promise of no reduction in services in the following three years. In September 2004, a small number of services were withdrawn and minor revisions were made to some existing services.

Metro was later renamed the Overground network in line with other FirstGroup companies. This was a group wide initiative to rationalise route networks into high frequency colour-coded networks running on main routes, to reduce the amount of confusing overlaps and divergences of routes on minor roads.

In 2008, First Aberdeen revamped there entire network axing little used services and focusing on the Overground routes. The required 90% of Aberdeen's timetable to be changed.

On 16 September 2012 First has be introducing a network review of services which is the biggest service change since 2008. The review reduces frequency on most routes. It also removes evening and Sunday services to parts of the city..


The majority of services are operated commercially, with some services partially subsidised by Aberdeen City Council. The company operates an exact fare policy, whereby no change is given by the driver.


As the incumbent city bus operator since the tram era, First Aberdeen has retained control of almost all of the bus services in Aberdeen over the years. Stagecoach East Scotland is the only other major bus operator operating along major trunk routes and a single city centre service. This has been the source of many complaints over the years, with many councillors and members of the public suggesting that the lack of competition in Aberdeen has led to fare prices in the city becoming unreasonably high.

King Street Headquarters

The company has occupied a historic depot site at 395 King Street at the heart of the city since 1914. It was built in 1862 and bought by Aberdeen Corporation Tramways[2] The site has also served as global headquarters of FirstGroup since its formation in 1995. On 21 June 2007 First gained permission to redevelop the site into a new Aberdeen bus depot and global FirstGroup headquarters building. It was officially opened by Anne, Princess Royal on 15 July 2010.[7]

See also


  1. 1 2 Companies House extract company no SC097420 First Aberdeen Limited formerly Grampian Regional Transport Limited
  2. 1 2 The History of 395 King Street FirstGroup
  3. Andy Milne talks to Moir Lockhead by 11 April 2006
  4. Buses Magazine issue 648 March 2009
  5. Badgerline links with GRT The Independent 5 April 1995
  6. 1 2 FirstGroup Fleetlist Steve White
  7. The Princess Royal opens FirstGroup's new Aberdeen base BBC News 15 July 2010
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