FirstGroup’s UK bus division invests £70 million in 425 new vehicles

Bus stop

Transport operator FirstGroup’s UK bus division has placed GBP70m worth of orders for 425 new buses, to be delivered in the 2014/15 financial year, it revealed on Thursday.

The contracts have been awarded to: Wrightbus, a Ballymena company, which has been given the largest contract for 301 Wrightbus vehicles, including 274 fuel efficient Micro Hybrids; ADL, based in Falkirk, will supply First with 97 vehicles, including 60 double-deckers; Leeds-based company Optare has won a contract for 21 buses, including six electric vehicles; and Volvo Group UK will provide six coaches. First said that its new buses will all feature wi-fi and leather seats as standard and will be fitted with EURO V engines.

According to First, the orders represents the biggest ever investment in new buses in the UK, for local services outside London. The company has made a total investment of GBP310m in 2,000 new vehicles over four years. It operates a fleet of 6,500 buses that carry around 2.3 million passengers each day in 40 of the UK’s towns and cities. First also provides regular intercity coach services that link South Wales and Bristol Airport through Greyhound UK, as well as offering charter services.

First said that throughout 2013, it has worked in partnership with Wrightbus to test, trial and develop StreetLite Micro Hybrid buses. The diesel vehicles include a new on board hybrid system that reportedly improves fuel efficiency by using stored braking energy to power pneumatics, hydraulics and electrical items, which reduces overall fuel consumption by approximately 10%. First added that it will be the first company to operate the StreetLite buses.

Giles Fearnley, managing director of First UK Bus, stated: “This order is great news for our customers and underlines our commitment to growing our business and encouraging more people to use our services and use them more often.”

Group managing director of Wrights Group, Mark Nodder, commented:

“When Giles Fearnley challenged us to develop a bus which was not only attractive and reliable, but which lead the industry in fuel efficiency, we grasped the opportunity with both hands. With the encouragement and support of First’s engineering team we brainstormed and trialled a host of innovative ideas before settling on the system now embodied in the StreetLite Micro Hybrid. The result for Wrightbus has been this excellent new order, and for First a fuel savings dividend from a fleet of brilliant new buses.”

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