UK Transport Wiki

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).

OwnerPublicly owned (Template:Lse)
  • Template:Flagicon United Kingdom
  • Template:Flagicon United States
  • Template:Flagicon Canada
  • Template:Flagicon Ireland
  • Template:Flagicon Denmark
  • Template:Flagicon Sweden
Transit typeLocal and express bus, intercity bus, franchised rail and tram, yellow school bus
Chief executiveMoir Lockhead (CEO)
Martin Gilbert (Chairman)
Headquarters395 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5RP, Scotland, UK
Began operation1995
Operator(s)See below
First Group plc
Revenue£6,187.3 million (2009)[1]
Operating income£497.5 million (2009)[1]
Net income£157.0 million (2009)[1]
Employees135,807 (2009)[1]

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.[2]


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.[3] 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.[4]

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

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.[5]

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,[6] when the company moved into railways with the privatisation of British Rail, gaining the Great Eastern franchise,[7] then purchasing Swindon based Great Western Holdings, holders of the North Western and Great Western franchises.[8] 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.[5] 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.[5]

Soon after, they also began operating London’s Tramlink system under franchise from London Transport.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

In 2004 First lost First Great Eastern to National Express Group, which now operates it as National Express East Anglia.[12] In fact, they were banned from bidding for the franchise, despite being named Train Operator of the Year at the time.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

In June 2010 First Group sold its railfreight business First GBRf which it had acquired in 2003[19] (as part of a larger acquisition of GB Railways) to the Eurotunnel Group for £31 million,[20][21] ending the group's involvement in rail freight transport.[19]

In September 2010 former London Underground managing director Tim O'Toole was announced as the successor to retiring group Chief Executive Officer Moir Lockhead.[22][23]

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.[24]

In June 2013 most of the First London bus operations were sold to Go-Ahead London, Metroline and Tower Transit.[25] Operations ceased in September 2013 when the remaining contracts expired.


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.[26]

In North America, FirstGroup has several divisions: First Student which runs school bus routes;[27] First Transit which holds many city and county public transport contracts;[28] and First Vehicle Services which maintains vehicles for many corporations, organisations and local governments, including the other First divisions and Greyhound lines.[29] 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.[30]

FirstGroup owns and operates the Aircoach service in Dublin,[31] 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[]

Rail services[]

File:Taunton FGW 43012 GBRF 66730.jpg

First Great Western Class 43 and FirstGBRf Class 66 at Taunton

Passenger Operations[]

Bus and coach services[]


See also: Bus transport in the United Kingdom
File:Bus outside Leeds railway station - DSC07509.JPG

A First Leeds bus outside Leeds City railway station.


Services formerly operated[]

See also[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Annual Report 2009
  2. Reshuffle sees LSE leave FTSE 100 BBC News, 11 March 2009
  3. Interview with Moir Lockhead 11 April 2006
  4. Fuel Cell Bus Club
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Buses Magazine, Issue 648, March 2009, Ian Allan Publishing
  6. 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
  7. £75m of additional passenger benefits agreed with FirstGroup
  8. Conditions met for FirstGroup takeover of Great Western
  9. Croydon Tramlink Light Rail Network
  10. FirstGroup has ticket to Growth
  11. Serco JV selected as preferred bidder for Northern Rail franchise
  12. National Express wins UK Franchise
  13. Anglia wins top rail firm award
  14. Gatwick and Luton airport rail shake-up
  15. Wessex Train Company News Tessa
  16. FirstGroup buys Greyhound buses BBC News, accessed 1/12/08
  17. National Express turns down bid. British Broadcasting Corporation (2009-06-29). Retrieved on 2009-06-29.
  18. Statement re Bus and Coach contract at London 2012 Games. FirstGroup. Retrieved on 2010-04-16.
  19. 19.0 19.1 First GBRf bought by Eurotunnel 1/6/2010 ,
  20. FIRSTGROUP PLC : Disposal of rail freight business PR Newswire Europe via COMTEX , 1/6/2010 , via
  21. Eurotunnel buys GBRf from FirstGroup 1/6/2010 ,
  22. Template:Cite news
  23. Template:Cite news
  24. Template:Cite press release
  25. FirstGroup Announces Sale of Eight London Bus Depots FirstGroup 9 April 2013
  26. TfL announces plans to take over Tramlink services
  27. First Student
  28. First Transit
  29. First Vehicle Services
  30. Greyhound
  31. 31.0 31.1 Aircoach. FirstGroup. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
  32. 32.0 32.1 FirstGroup Annual Report 2006

External links[]

Template:Commons category

Template:FTSE 250 Index constituents


de:FirstGroup es:FirstGroup fr:First Group nl:First Group ja:ファーストグループ pl:FirstGroup zh:第一集團