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FirstGroup plc is a British multi-national
transport Transport (commonly used in the U.K.), or transportation (used in the U.S.), is the Motion, movement of humans, animals and cargo, goods from one location to another. In other words, the action of transport is defined as a particular movement ...
group, based in
Aberdeen Aberdeen (; sco, Aiberdeen, ; gd, Obar Dheathain ; la, Aberdonia) is a city in northeast Scotland. It is the List of towns and cities in Scotland by population, third most populous city in Scotland, one of Scotland's 32 Local government in S ...

Aberdeen
, Scotland.Companies House extract company no SC157176
FirstGroup plc
The company operates transport services in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...
,
Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish ...

Ireland
,
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocea ...

Canada
and the
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. It is listed on the
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and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.


History


Origins

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 Somerset (; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-w ...

Somerset
based services of the Bristol Omnibus Company that were rebranded in 1985 as Badgerline were purchased in 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 Aberdeen (; sco, Aiberdeen, ; gd, Obar Dheathain ; la, Aberdonia) is a city in northeast Scotland. It is the List of towns and cities in Scotland by population, third most populous city in Scotland, one of Scotland's 32 Local government in S ...

Aberdeen
owned by Grampian Regional Council, was privatized in a management buyout led by its then general manager Moir Lockhead.Interview with Moir Lockhead
11 April 2006
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. The former King Street Barracks site in
Aberdeen Aberdeen (; sco, Aiberdeen, ; gd, Obar Dheathain ; la, Aberdonia) is a city in northeast Scotland. It is the List of towns and cities in Scotland by population, third most populous city in Scotland, one of Scotland's 32 Local government in S ...

Aberdeen
was selected as the headquarters. At the time of the merger, FirstBus had 5,600 buses, 4,000 of which came from Badgerline.''Buses'' issue 648 March 2009 Badgerline's Trevor Smallwood became chairman of FirstBus, while GRT head Moir Lockhead became deputy chairman and chief executive.


Expansion

FirstBus continued the policy of growth by acquisition acquiring List of former municipal bus companies of the United Kingdom, former council owned operations and companies formerly owned by National Bus Company (UK), English, Welsh and Scottish Bus Group, Scottish nationalized operators. FirstBus went on to acquire larger urban metropolitan operators by taking advantage of the History of the PTE bus operations#Privatisation, privatisation of the PTE bus operations and the privatisation of London bus services. FirstBus acquired GM Buses, GM Buses North in Manchester and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Strathclyde Buses in Glasgow in 1996, First South Yorkshire, Mainline in South Yorkshire and First London, 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 Greater Western franchise, Great Western and First North Western, 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 System, Ryder Public Transport Services, a provider of school bus and contracted public bus transportation in the United States. In May 2000, FirstGroup began operating the Tramlink, London Tramlink concession under contract to Transport for London. 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 East Anglia franchise, 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 November 2003, FirstGroup purchased a 90% shareholding in Irish coach operator Aircoach. 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 First Great Western Link, 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 Bus Lines, Voyageur Colonial and Grey Goose Bus Lines, Grey Goose in Canada. In January 2009, DSBFirst, FirstGroup's joint venture with DSB (railway company), Danish State Railways commenced operating the Oresundtrain rail franchise from Helsingør and Nivå in Denmark along the Coast Line (Denmark), Kystbanen line and over the Øresund Bridge to Malmö Central Station, Malmö, Växjö, Kalmar, Karlskrona and Gothenburg Central Station, 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, 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 which said 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.


Recent years

In June 2010, FirstGroup sold its railfreight business GB Railfreight, First GBRf to the Getlink, Eurotunnel Group for £31 million, ending the group's involvement in rail freight transport. In September 2010, former London Underground managing director Tim O'Toole (businessman), 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 September 2011, FirstGroup's German bus operations were sold to Marwyn European Transport. 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, First Travel Solutions provided bus and coach services for the 2012 Summer Olympics, London 2012 Olympic Games as First Games Transport. This involved the provision of venue shuttle and park and ride services, services connecting the peripheral park and ride sites on the M25 motorway, M25 with the Olympic Park, London, Olympic Park and Ebbsfleet Valley, Ebbsfleet, and a nationwide network of express coaches to the Olympic Park and the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, Weymouth and Portland sailing venue. The services required around 900 vehicles in total, although some were sub-contracted. In June 2013, most of the First London bus operations were sold to Go-Ahead London, Metroline and Tower Transit. In April 2015 FirstGroup was unsuccessful in bidding for the ScotRail (brand), 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 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 commenced operating the A-train (Denton County Transportation Authority), A-train under contract to the Denton County Transportation Authority, its first rail operation in the United States. In August 2017 FirstGroup's joint venture with MTR Corporation commenced operating the South Western franchise, FirstGroup having a 70% shareholding in South Western Railway (train operating company), South Western Railway. In May 2019, FirstGroup announced it would sell it UK bus operations. The only sales completed were parts of First Greater Manchester to the Go-Ahead Group and Rotala. In May 2020, FirstGroup announced it would retain its UK bus operations and sell its North American assets instead.


Operations

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 Avanti West Coast, Great Western Railway (train operating company), Great Western Railway, South Western Railway (train operating company), South Western Railway and TransPennine Express. It also operates Hull Trains, a non-franchised open access passenger train service. FirstGroup operates tram services on the Tramlink, 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 (United States), 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, organizations and local governments, including the other First divisions and Greyhound lines. FirstGroup owns and operates the Aircoach service in Dublin, linking Dublin Airport with the city centre, the south side of Dublin, Greystones and Bray, County Wicklow, Bray as well as long-distance express services runs to Cork (city), Cork and Belfast.


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 stylized ''f'' logo depicting a road. A corporate white, pink and blue livery nicknamed "Barbie" was introduced 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 West of England, First Somerset & Avon operations in Bridgwater and Taunton as The Buses of Somerset, using a two-tone green livery. Hull Trains carries a predominantly blue livery, including white, pink and purple. This was also used by First Great Western until 20 September 2015, when the franchise was rebranded as Great Western Railway, with a new logo and dark green livery paying homage to the original Great Western Railway. Tramlink, 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. In North America, all FirstGroup 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.


Current operating businesses

Current operating businesses include:


Bus and coach


United Kingdom

*First Aberdeen (formerly First Grampian) **First Aberdeen Coach Hire (formerly Grampian Executive) *First Berkshire & The Thames Valley (formerly First Beeline) *First Cymru *First Essex (formerly First Eastern National, First Thamesway) *First Glasgow (formerly First Kelvin and First Greater Glasgow) *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 East Anglia **Ipswich Rapid Transit *First Northern Ireland *First Potteries (operating in Staffordshire and South Cheshire, formerly First PMT/PMT Limited) *First Travel Solutions re-branded 2016 (Formally First Rail Support) which provides 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 Scotland East (formerly First SMT, First Borders and First Midland Bluebird) **First West Lothian **First Bluebird *First South West (formerly First Devon & Cornwall) **Kernow (bus company), Kernow (part of First South West) **The Buses of Somerset includes Somerset services of the former First Southern National *First South Yorkshire (formerly First Mainline) *First West of England (formerly First Bristol & First Somerset & Avon) *First West Yorkshire **First Bradford (part of First West Yorkshire) **First Calderdale & Huddersfield, First Halifax, Calder Valley & Huddersfield (part of First West Yorkshire) **First Leeds (part of First West Yorkshire) *First York (including the York Park & Ride)


Ireland

*Aircoach


Canada

*First Student Canada, First Student (school, charter bus and public transit services) *HandyDART Contract to TransLink (British Columbia) for accessible transit service in Metro Vancouver *Greyhound Canada (intercity bus services) **Grey Goose Bus Lines **Vancouver Island Coach Lines **Voyageur Colonial Bus Lines


United States

*First Transit (bus and rapid transit) *First Student (United States), First Student (school bus services) *Greyhound Lines (intercity bus services) **BoltBus (a discount operator competing with Megabus (United States), Megabus)


Rail


United Kingdom

*Great Western Railway (train operating company), Great Western Railway (formerly First Great Western) *Hull Trains *Tramlink, London Tramlink *South Western Railway (train operating company), South Western Railway (70% shareholding) *TransPennine Express *Avanti West Coast (70% shareholding) *East Coast Trains commenced in Autumn 2021


United States

*A-train (Denton County Transportation Authority), A-train, Denton County Transportation Authority commenced October 2016


Former operating companies


Bus and coach


Germany

*FirstGroup Rhein-Neckar sold September 2011 to Marwyn European Transport


Hong Kong

*New World First Bus 26% stake sold May 2000 to New World Development


United Kingdom

*First Chester & The Wirral sold to Stagecoach Merseyside & South Lancashire in January 2013 *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 Borders (formerly Lowland Scottish and part of the wider First Scotland East group) sold to West Coast Motors, trading as Borders Buses, on 26 March 2017.Sale of First Borders to West Coast Motors
First Group 25 March 2017


Rail


United Kingdom

*First Great Eastern from January 1997 until April 2004, incorporated into East Anglia franchise, Greater Anglia franchise subsequently operated by National Express as National Express East Anglia, One *First North Western from March 1997 until December 2004, operations split between Arriva Trains Wales, First TransPennine Express and Northern Rail *GB Railfreight, First GBRf from August 2003 until sold in June 2010 to Getlink, 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 and Sweden

*DSBFirst was a joint rail venture with Danish State Railways (30% shareholding) until 2013


References


External links

* * * {{Authority control Bus groups in the United Kingdom Companies based in Aberdeen Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange First Group, British companies established in 1995 Transport companies established in 1995 Transport operators of the United Kingdom 1995 establishments in Scotland