FirstGroup spends £70 million on biggest ever bus order

FirstGroup is to spend £70 million over the next financial year on 425 new buses for its UK division, all but six of which will be built domestically.

Transport News reports that the biggest order for the operator to date includes six fully-electric buses and brings total investment to £310 million on 2000 new vehicles over four years.

First-Group

Wrightbus takes the biggest chunk of the order with 301 buses due to roll of its Ballymena line for FirstGroup including 274 StreetLite micro hybrid designs.

The two companies have worked through 2013 to trial and develop the diesel-powered StreetLite which improves fuel economy by 10% by recovering braking energy to power pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems. FirstGroup will be the first company to operate the vehicles.

Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First UK Bus said, “This order is great news for our customers and underlines our commitment to growing our business and encouraging more people to use our service an use them more often.

“In 2013 we laid down the gauntlet to bus manufacturers to work with us to minimise fuel consumption. Wrightbus embraced that challenge and together we’ve developed its StreetLiteproduct. I am immensely proud of our collective achievement.”

Mark Nodder, Group Managing Director of Wright Group said, “We grasped the opportunity with both hands. With the encouragement of First’s engineering team we brainstormed and trialled a host of innovative ideas before settling on the system now embodied in the StreetLite.
Falkirk-based ADL has secured a contract for 97 buses, including 60 double-deckers, while Optare in Leeds will build 21 for FirstGroup including six electra Versa models. Volvo will manufacture six coaches as part of the order.

FirstGroup is currently resisting calls from investor Sandell Asset Management to split the UK and US parts of the business.

Sandell believes floating the US school bus contract and selling Greyhound would allow FirstGroup to better focus on UK bus operations as well as rail franchise bidding.