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Our history

Key highlights

The key events in the Group’s history and development since incorporation include the following:


Following the 1985 Transport Act, which legislated for the deregulation of the UK local bus market, Grampian Regional Transport Ltd was formed to own and manage Aberdeen council’s bus fleet.

Badgerline Group plc, a company owned principally by its managers and employees, acquired Badgerline Limited, which principally comprised the bus service activities of the National Bus Company in the Bath, Bristol and Weston-super-Mare region.


An employee and management buy-out leads to Grampian Regional Transport Holdings becoming the first Scottish local authority bus fleet in private hands.


Grampian Regional Transport (GRT) acquires Midland Scottish in an £8.5m deal.


Following the acquisition of a number of UK local bus operators, Badgerline Group plc was floated on the London Stock Exchange.


GRT floats on the stock market with a value of £57m.


FirstBus plc was formed through the merger of the Badgerline Group plc and GRT Bus Group plc. As well as several UK regional bus businesses, Badgerline Group plc also owned 24.5% of Great Western Holdings Ltd, which at the time of the merger was bidding to win one of the first round of rail franchises to be offered to private companies following the Railways Act.


FirstBus buys GMBN, the Greater Manchester bus operator.

FirstBus acquires Strathclyde Buses for £110m.

FirstBus wins the Great Eastern rail franchise.


FirstBus buys CentreWest, its first London bus business.

The Group’s UK Rail division was established following Great Western Holdings Ltd’s successful franchise tender.

FirstBus is renamed FirstGroup to reflect its broadening public transport interests.


FirstGroup doubles its size with the acquisition of the remainder of Great Western Holdings Ltd.


FirstGroup becomes the second largest operator of yellow school buses in North America with the purchase of Bruce Transportation and Ryder Public Transportation Services.


FirstGroup launches the Croydon Tramlink service, the first trams for 50 years in London.


FirstGroup buys Coach USA’s transit division, operator of buses in states such as California, Florida and New York.

GB Railways, operator of Anglia Rail, GB Rail and Hull Trains, bought by FirstGroup.

The TransPennine Express rail franchise was awarded to a joint venture owned 55% by FirstGroup.


FirstGroup wins ScotRail franchise.


FirstGroup wins enlarged Greater Western franchise.

FirstGroup wins Thameslink Great Northern rail franchise and renames it First Capital Connect.


FirstGroup becomes the largest operator of yellow school buses in North America with the acquisition of Laidlaw International for over $3bn. The deal also sees FirstGroup take over the iconic Greyhound coach division, and add substantial additional contracts to the First Transit portfolio.


First ScotRail franchise extended to 2014.


FirstGroup exits the rail freight services market with the sale of GB Railfreight.

FirstGroup’s new global headquarters open in Aberdeen.

Tim O’Toole becomes the new Chief Executive of FirstGroup in November, replacing founding CEO Sir Moir Lockhead.


The TransPennine Express franchise was extended for three further years.


The ScotRail franchise was extended to March 2015.

First Bus provided spectator transport for hundreds of thousands of attendees at the London 2012 Games with our rail companies also running additional services.


FirstGroup exits the London bus market.

Undertakes £584m rights issue to strengthen balance sheet and provide flexibility to continue transformation plans and invest to create sustainable value.

FirstGroup awarded contract to operate the Great Western franchise to September 2015.

John McFarlane becomes Chairman of FirstGroup, replacing Martin Gilbert.


FirstGroup gives train passengers the first ever opportunity to earn Nectar points when booking their journeys online with a UK rail operator.

First Bus and First ScotRail are proud to be official supporters of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, providing passenger rail and bus services.

First Bus provided passenger transport for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Greyhound celebrated its centenary with a mobile museum tour across the USA, showcasing restored classic coaches and the best of today's business.


FirstGroup signed agreement to operate the Great Western franchise until 2019 and an additional year operating First TransPennine Express.

As the leading transport operator in Bristol, FirstGroup is proud to support the city as European Green Capital 2015 as an official partner.

Wolfhart Hauser appointed as Chairman to succeed John McFarlane, who becomes Chairman of Barclays plc.

First Transit announces that it will be partnering with the government of Panama to provide transit management for its bus system. The partnership represents an expansion of First Transit’s operations into Central America.


FirstGroup launches the new TransPennine Express franchise which will run until at least 2023, signalling the start of a £500m investment into rail operations in the North and Scotland.

Hull Trains secures track access rights until 2029. The Investment in a bi-mode fleet will keep the open access operator at the forefront of the industry.

First Transit is in discussions with Hinjewadi Techzone IT Park to operate employee shuttle buses at the Park in Pune, India.

First Transit launches its first US commuter rail service, operating A-train commuter trains on behalf of Denton County Transportation Authority, Texas.


FirstGroup, in partnership with MTR, is awarded the South Western rail franchise.

Hull Trains and TransPennine Express named official transport partners of Hull's UK City of Culture year.