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FirstGroup plc is a British multi-national transport group, based in Aberdeen, Scotland.[3] The company operates transport services in the United Kingdom, Ireland, multi-national transport group, based in Aberdeen, Scotland.[3] The company operates transport services in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the United States. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.[4]

History

Origins

deregulation of bus services in the United Kingdom in 1986, whereby private companies purchased nationalised and municipal bus operators.[5] In September 1986 the 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.[6]

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.[7] As GRT Bus Group, it expanded through acquisition purchasing six former nationalised bus companies in England and Scotland.[8] 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 was selected as the headquarters.[9] At the time of the merger, FirstBus had 5,600 buses, 4,000 of which came from Badgerline.[10] Badgerline's Trevor Smallwood became chairman of FirstBus, while GRT head Moir Lockhead became deputy chairman and chief executive.[10]

Expansion

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.[10]

The company was renamed FirstGroup in December 1997[3] 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.[11][12]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.[7] As GRT Bus Group, it expanded through acquisition purchasing six former nationalised bus companies in England and Scotland.[8] 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 was selected as the headquarters.[9] At the time of the merger, FirstBus had 5,600 buses, 4,000 of which came from Badgerline.[10] Badgerline's Trevor Smallwood became chairman of FirstBus, while GRT head Moir Lockhead became deputy chairman and chief executive.[10]

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.[10]

[3] 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.[11][12][13]

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.[14] In May 2000 FirstGroup sold its shares to joint venture partner New World Development.[15] In September 1999, FirstGroup purchased Ryder Public Transport Services, a provider of school bus and contracted public bus transportation in the United States.[16] In May 2000, FirstGroup began operating the London Tramlink concession under contract to Transport for London.[17]

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.[14] In May 2000 FirstGroup sold its shares to joint venture partner New World Development.[15] In September 1999, FirstGroup purchased Ryder Public Transport Services, a provider of school bus and contracted public bus transportation in the United States.[16] In May 2000, FirstGroup began operating the London Tramlink concession under contract to Transport for London.[17]

In August 2003, FirstGroup purchased GB Railways which owned Anglia Railways and GB Railfreight and held 80% of the shares in Hull Trains.[18] 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.[19] In November 2003, FirstGroup purchased a 90% shareholding in Irish coach operator Aircoach.[20]

In February 2004, FirstGroup's joint venture with Keolis commenced operating the First TransPennine Express rail franchise, FirstGroup having a 55% shareholding.[21][22] In April 2004, FirstGroup commenced operating the First Great Western Link franchise[23] and in October 2004 the First ScotRail franchise.[24] In December 2004, the remainder of First North Western passed to Northern Rail, some services having already been t

In February 2004, FirstGroup's joint venture with Keolis commenced operating the First TransPennine Express rail franchise, FirstGroup having a 55% shareholding.[21][22] In April 2004, FirstGroup commenced operating the First Great Western Link franchise[23] and in October 2004 the First ScotRail franchise.[24] 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.[25]

In April 2006, FirstGroup commenced operating the First Capital Connect franchise[26] and a renewed First Great Western franchise that had been expanded to include the Thames Trains and Wessex Trains franchises.[27][28]

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.[29] 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.[30] By March 2011 this was 30%.[31]

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 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.[32]

Recent years