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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 (Template:Lse)|
|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|
|Revenue||£6,187.3 million (2009)|
|Operating income||£497.5 million (2009)|
|Net income||£157.0 million (2009)|
FirstGroup plc (Template:Lse) is a public 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.
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. 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.
At the time of the merger, Firstbus had 5,600 buses, 4,000 of which came from Badgerline. Badgerline's Trevor Smallwood remained as chairman of First for four years, 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 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.
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, when the company moved into railways with the privatisation of British Rail, gaining the Great Eastern franchise, then purchasing Swindon based Great Western Holdings, holders of the North Western and Great Western franchises. 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. 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.
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.
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.
In 2004 First lost First Great Eastern to National Express Group, which now operates it as National Express East Anglia. In fact, they were banned from bidding for the franchise, despite being named Train Operator of the Year at the time.
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.
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.
On 15 February 2010, FirstGroup was announced as preferred bidder for the provision of bus and coach services for the London 2012 Olympic Games. This will involve 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 will require around 900 vehicles in total, although some will be sub-contracted.
In June 2010 First Group sold its railfreight business First GBRf which it had acquired in 2003 (as part of a larger acquisition of GB Railways) to the Eurotunnel Group for £31 million, ending the group's involvement in rail freight transport.
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.
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.
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 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:
- Transport for London-tendered services (painted red)
- suburban rail services in Strathclyde operated on behalf of SPT (painted carmine/cream for that authority)
- Greyhound UK (beginning September 2009) services between London and the South East (painted in the navy blue and grey livery introduced to the American Greyhound line in 2009).
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.
FirstGroup owns and operates the Aircoach service in Dublin, linking Dublin Airport with the Dublin southside, Greystones and Bray as well as long distance runs to Cork. 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.
Current operating companies
- First Capital Connect
- First Great Western
- First Hull Trains (80% stake)
- First ScotRail
- First TransPennine Express (55% stake)
Bus and coach services
- See also: Bus transport in the United Kingdom
- First Aberdeen (formerly First Grampian)
- First Berkshire & The Thames Valley (formerly First Beeline)
- First Bradford
- First Bristol (formerly First Cityline)
- First Calderdale & Huddersfield
- First Cymru
- First Devon & Cornwall (formerly First Western National & North Devon Red Bus)
- Truronian (sub brand of First Devon & Cornwall, due to become part of First Devon & Cornwall)
- First Eastern Counties
- First Edinburgh (formerly First SMT, First Borders and First Midland Bluebird)
- First Essex (formerly First Eastern National, First Thamesway)
- First Glasgow (formerly First Kelvin and First Greater Glasgow)
- First Hampshire & Dorset (formerly First Southampton, First Provincial and the Dorset operations of First Southern National)
- First Leeds
- First Leicester
- First Manchester
- First Pennine (part of First Manchester)
- First Midland Red Buses Limited (sometimes referred to as First Wyvern)
- First Potteries (operating in Staffordshire and South Cheshire)
- First Scotland East (formerly First SMT, First Borders and First Midland Bluebird)
- First Falkirk
- First East Lothian
- First Bluebird
- First Somerset & Avon (formerly Badgerline and the Somerset operations of First Southern National)
- First South Yorkshire
- First West Yorkshire
- First York (including the York Park and Ride operated by First)
- Greyhound UK intercity service between Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol, Newport and Bristol Airport
- Aircoach 
Services formerly operated
- First Great Eastern (until April 2004: now operated by National Express Group as National Express East Anglia - formerly known as 'one')
- First North Western (until December 2004: now operated by Northern Rail, TransPennine Express and Arriva Trains Wales.)
- Tramlink (until June 2008: Now operated by Transport for London.)
- First GBRf (until May 2010: Now operated by the Eurotunnel Group branded as GB Railfreight.)
- First Chester & The Wirral
- ChesterBus (local services within the City of Chester)
- First London (until September 2013: Most of the contracts were sold to Metroline, Tower Transit and Go-Ahead London. The remainder ceased operations on 26 September 2013).
- First Northampton
- Annual Report 2009
- Reshuffle sees LSE leave FTSE 100 BBC News, 11 March 2009
- Interview with Moir Lockhead 11 April 2006
- Fuel Cell Bus Club
- Buses Magazine, Issue 648, March 2009, Ian Allan Publishing
- 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
- £75m of additional passenger benefits agreed with FirstGroup
- Conditions met for FirstGroup takeover of Great Western
- Croydon Tramlink Light Rail Network
- FirstGroup has ticket to Growth
- Serco JV selected as preferred bidder for Northern Rail franchise
- National Express wins UK Franchise
- Anglia wins top rail firm award
- Gatwick and Luton airport rail shake-up
- Wessex Train Company News Tessa
- FirstGroup buys Greyhound buses BBC News, accessed 1/12/08
- National Express turns down bid. British Broadcasting Corporation (2009-06-29). Retrieved on 2009-06-29.
- Statement re Bus and Coach contract at London 2012 Games. FirstGroup. Retrieved on 2010-04-16.
- First GBRf bought by Eurotunnel 1/6/2010 , www.railnews.co.uk
- FIRSTGROUP PLC : Disposal of rail freight business PR Newswire Europe via COMTEX , 1/6/2010 , via www.tradingmarkets.com
- Eurotunnel buys GBRf from FirstGroup 1/6/2010 , uk.reuters.com
- Template:Cite news
- Template:Cite news
- Template:Cite press release
- FirstGroup Announces Sale of Eight London Bus Depots FirstGroup 9 April 2013
- TfL announces plans to take over Tramlink services
- First Student
- First Transit
- First Vehicle Services
- Aircoach. FirstGroup. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- FirstGroup Annual Report 2006
- FirstGroup official web site
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