First’s £70m bus order

FirstGroup’s UK bus division has ordered 425 new vehicles worth £70m for delivery in the 2014/15 financial year, including six Optare electric buses. The order brings the company’s total investment over the past four years to around £310m on 2,000 new buses ad coaches.

All but six of First’s new buses will be manufactured in the UK with Ballymena based Wrightbus winning the largest contract. It has placed an order for 301 Wrightbus vehicles including 274 of its ‘StreetLite Micro Hybrid’ buses, thought to be one of the most fuel efficient buses on the market. The operator and manufacturer have worked in partnership throughout 2013 to test, trial and develop the Micro Hybrids. The diesel vehicles incorporate a new on board hybrid system that should improve fuel efficiency by around 10%. FirstGroup will be the first company to operate these new buses.

First has also placed orders with other UK manufacturers. ADL has secured a contract for 97 vehicles including 60 double deckers. In addition to the six electric buses mentioned earlier, Optare is to provide another 15 vehicles. Optare is in continuing discussions with the operator regarding an order for a further 15 buses. However, there can be no guarantee these discussions will result in a purchase. Volvo Group UK will build the six coaches for the operator. All First’s new buses will be fitted with Euro5 engines and will feature wi-fi and E-Leather seats as standard.

MD of First UK Bus, Giles Fearnley, said, ‘Investment in our bus division continues apace. We operate in 40 of the UK’s largest towns and cities and our investment will help support the communities we serve. 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. Our groundbreaking partnership with Wrightbus will deliver unsurpassed levels of fuel efficiency, which, until recently few within in the bus industry would have believed possible. 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 StreetLite Micro Hybrid product. I am immensely proud of our collective achievements and we’re very much looking forward to being the first operator to take delivery of these revolutionary new vehicles.’

Group MD of Wrights Group, Mark Nodder, said, ‘When Giles Fearnley challenged us to develop a bus which was not only attractive and reliable, but which leads 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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