FirstGroup: Wikis


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Mosaic of services offered by First Group in Europe and North America.jpg
FirstGroup operates bus, rail, and tram transport in Great Britain, Denmark, and Sweden (Denmark and Sweden not pictured), and is an operator of bus service in the United States, Canada, and Ireland (Ireland not shown).
Owner Publicly owned (LSE: FGP)
Transit type Local and express bus, intercity bus, franchised rail and tram, yellow school bus
Chief executive Moir Lockhead (CEO)
Martin Gilbert (Chairman)
Headquarters 395 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5RP, Scotland, UK
Began operation 1995
Operator(s) See below
First Group plc
Revenue £4,707.6 million (2008)
Operating income £360.1 million (2008)
Net income £133.3 million (2008)
Employees 105,685 (2008)

FirstGroup plc (LSE: FGP) is a British transport company, registered in Scotland at their headquarters in Aberdeen, operating in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the United States. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.[1]



FirstGroup originated from the deregulation of bus services in the United Kingdom, where private companies purchased former nationalised and municipal bus operators.

In 1989 the council-owned Aberdeen city municipal bus operator Grampian Regional Transport was purchased by its employees in a deal led by its then general manager Moir Lockhead, the future FirstGroup Chief Executive.[2] The company expanded through acquisition as the GRT Group purchasing six former nationalised bus companies in England and Scotland. Elsewhere in the UK, the Badgerline Group had similarly grown through acquisitions of former nationalised bus companies in England and Wales accumulating 12 companies, from similar beginnings to GRT from privatisation of the Somerset-based bus company Badgerline, sold to its management in 1986.

FirstGroup was formed as "FirstBus" in June 1995 through the merger of the Badgerline Group and the GRT Group, with fleets in England, Wales and Scotland.[3]

At the time of the merger, Firstbus had 5,600 buses, 4,000 of which came from Badgerline.[4] Badgerline's Trevor Smallwood remained as chairman of First for four years, while GRT head Moir Lockhead became deputy chairman and chief executive.[4]

FirstBus continued the policy of growth by acquisition acquiring former council owned operations and companies owned by the English and Welsh and Scottish nationalised operators. Post merger, First 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 Greater Manchester and Strathclyde Buses in Greater Glasgow in 1996, and Mainline in South Yorkshire and CentreWest in London in 1997, and Capital Citybus in London in 1998[4].

Post merger, the group began applying a standard corporate typeface to its fleet names with a stylised f logo. A new corporate white, pink and indigo livery was introduced for all new low-floor buses, nicknamed 'Barbie', now the UK bus company standard, 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. Laterly, older buses received a modified 'Barbie 2' livery, with fleets later still converted to full Barbie colours. By the late 1990s, the corporate colours of Firstbus, Stagecoach Group and Arriva were appearing in buses in all parts of the UK except London and Northern Ireland.

The company was renamed First Group plc following an Extraordinary General Meeting on 23 December 1998[5], when the company moved into railways with the privatisation of British Rail, gaining the Great Eastern franchise,[6] then purchasing Swindon based Great Western Holdings, holders of the North Western and Great Western franchises.[7] The change of name was due to the managing director of Great Eastern trains objecting to having FirstBus displayed on the side of his trains[4]. As Badgerline, First had originally entered the rail market with a stake in Great Western Holdings, before the outright purchase of Great Western by First in 1998[4].

Soon after, they also began operating London’s Tramlink system under franchise from London Transport.[8]

In late 2000, FirstGroup sold its 26% stake in New World First Bus (NWFB), a joint venture established in 1998 to operate the Hong Kong Island routes formerly operated by China Motor Bus, to NWS Holdings Ltd, its joint venture partner.[3]

During 2004 First was awarded the ScotRail franchise to run trains in Scotland, in which it already operated the lion’s share of bus services, and took over the new TransPennine Express franchise in partnership with French transport company Keolis.[9]

The First North Western franchise was lost to Serco/NedRailways in December 2004. First North Western’s services in northern England were combined with those previously run by Arriva Trains Northern (and not part of the Transpennine network) to form the new Northern Rail franchise.[10]

In 2004 First lost First Great Eastern to National Express Group, which now operates it as National Express East Anglia.[11] In fact, they were banned from bidding for the franchise, despite being named Train Operator of the Year at the time.[12]

From 1 April 2006 First has operated a new rail franchise under the brand First Capital Connect, amalgamating Thameslink with the Great Northern line of WAGN.[13]

The Great Western franchise was extended in 2006 to also include the services of the former Wessex Trains and Thames Trains, and this new franchise was again awarded to First.[14]

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 them 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.[15]

On 29 June 2009, FirstGroup said a takeover bid over fellow transport operator National Express Group, which was struggling with debt over the East Coast Main Line rail franchise at the time, had been rejected, National Express saying it didn't "consider it appropriate" at the time to discuss a takeover. FirstGroup believed that there was "significant industrial and commercial logic" over a merger, but National Express wished to focus on its own initiatives.[16]


FirstGroup plc 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 run passenger and freight rail services in the UK. Passenger rail franchises consist of First Great Western, First Capital Connect, First TransPennine Express and First ScotRail. They also operate First Hull Trains (an 80% share), a non-franchised open access intercity passenger train service and provide rail freight services through FirstGBRf. First operated the Tramlink network carrying approximately 24 million passengers a year on behalf of Transport for London, although its contract has been cancelled and will be transferred wholly to TfL.[17]

In North America, FirstGroup has several divisions: First Student which runs school bus routes;[18] First Transit which holds many city and county public transport contracts;[19] and First Vehicle Services which maintains vehicles for many corporations, organisations and local governments, including the other First divisions and Greyhound lines.[20] Canadian operations are provided through their First Canada subsidiary which operates school buses and fulfils public transport contracts.

FirstGroup has always had a consistent brand and most of the names of its operations begin with the word First, such as First ScotRail, First Aberdeen, First Glasgow and First Bristol. The company has since removed all local branding for its local bus services - buses now simply carry the fleet name ‘First’ throughout the UK, although each company still operates independently. Its corporate colours are white, pink and blue, and many of its buses and trains are now liveried in these colours, except for buses and trams operating in the following services:

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.[21]

First own and operate the Aircoach service in Dublin,[22] linking Dublin Airport with the Dublin southside, Greystones and Bray as well as long distance runs to Cork and Belfast. Aircoach also operate car park shuttles at Belfast and Dublin Airports. As of April 2008, Aircoach has started operating shuttle bus services for the Mater Private Hospital and Phoenix Park. Until 2009, Aircoach did not carry corporate branding although recently drivers had begun to receive standard FirstGroup uniforms with additional Aircoach branding. Buses introduced since January 2009 on Aircoach carry a revised livery, still predominantly blue, but with a pink and white stripe and FirstGroup logo alongside the Aircoach logo.

Senior management

First's senior management are as follows:[23]

  • Martin Gilbert - Non-Executive Chairman
  • Sir Moir Lockhead - Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive
  • Sidney Barrie - Commercial Director and Company Secretary
  • Jeff Carr - Finance Director
  • Ellis Watson - Group Marketing and Business Development Director
  • Nicola Shaw - Director Bus - UK, Ireland and Germany
  • Audrey Baxter - Non-Executive Director
  • David Begg - Non-Executive Director
  • John Sievwright - Non-Executive Director
  • Martyn Williams - Non-Executive Employee Director
  • Colin Hood - Non-Executive Director
  • Tim O'Toole - Non-Executive Director

Current operating companies


Rail services

Passenger Operations

Freight Operations

Bus and coach services





Denmark and Sweden

  • FirstGroup entered in a joint-venture bid with the Danish State Railways to operate trains on Kystbanen and over the Oresund Bridge to Malmö, Gothenburg, Växjö and Karlskrona and cities between. The bid makes them a 25% stakeholder on the Danish side and a 30% stakeholder on the Swedish side. They won this bid over SJ AB, Arriva, and Veolia Transportation. From January 11, 2009 DSBFirst operates trains along the eastern coast of Zealand and across the belt to Sweden, with connections to Westcoastline to Gothenburg, Southcoast to Karlskrona and to Växjö in Småland.

Fleet numbers

In 2003 First introduced the SemaVoyager system of fleet numbering across all its fleets within the United Kingdom. Vehicles carry five-digit fleet numbers, with the first digit denoting vehicle type, as follows:

Services formerly operated

See also


  1. ^ Reshuffle sees LSE leave FTSE 100 BBC News, 11 March 2009
  2. ^ [ Interview with Moir Lockhead, 11 April 2006
  3. ^ a b Fuel Cell Bus Club
  4. ^ a b c d e Buses Magazine, Issue 648, March 2009, Ian Allan Publishing
  5. ^ Stuart Cole, In Applied Transport Economics, Kogan Page Publishers 2005, ISBN 074944102X, p162, Google Books search (partial preview), "Note:First Bus plc changed its name to First Group plc following an Extraordinary General Meeting on 23 December 1998" , Retrieved on 17 January 2009
  6. ^ £75m of additional passenger benefits agreed with FirstGroup
  7. ^ Conditions met for FirstGroup takeover of Great Western
  8. ^ Croydon Tramlink Light Rail Network
  9. ^ FirstGroup has ticket to Growth
  10. ^ Serco JV selected as preferred bidder for Northern Rail franchise
  11. ^ National Express wins UK Franchise
  12. ^ Anglia wins top rail firm award
  13. ^ Gatwick and Luton airport rail shake-up
  14. ^ Wessex Train Company News Tessa
  15. ^ FirstGroup buys Greyhound buses BBC News, accessed 1/12/08
  16. ^ "National Express turns down bid". British Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  17. ^ TfL announces plans to take over Tramlink services
  18. ^ First Student
  19. ^ First Transit
  20. ^ First Vehicle Services
  21. ^ Greyhound
  22. ^ a b "Aircoach". FirstGroup. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  23. ^ FirstGroup senior management
  24. ^ a b FirstGroup Annual Report 2006
  25. ^ Greyhound UK website

External links

Major Public Transport Companies in the United Kingdom
Arriva Group - ComfortDelGro Group - FirstGroup
Go-Ahead Group - National Express Group
Stagecoach Group - Transdev Group
Translink (Northern Ireland) - Veolia Transport
See also:
Transport for London - Passenger Transport Executive
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport


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