Significant new bus order from First

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Operator supports British manufacturing with bulk of order being built by ADL and Wrightbus

FirstGroup has ordered 464 new vehicles worth £76m for delivery in the 2013/14 financial year, which brings First’s investment in new buses to around £240m in three years.

More than 95% of First’s 2013/14 manufacture will be in the UK. The bulk of the order will be built by ADL (222 vehicles) and Wrightbus (179 vehicles). Volvo Group UK will manage its 37-bus contract from its headquarters in Warwick, while Optare will manufacture 18. A further eight vehicles will be ordered, but as yet no decision has been taken as to the manufacturer.

The interior of each vehicle will be laid out to First’s specification which was designed last year following extensive customer research. This seeks to maximise the flexibility for both buggies and wheelchairs while providing additional grab rails for all passengers whether seated or standing. All vehicles will be fitted with WiFi supplied by Icomera.

“Investment in our bus division continues apace,” said Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First UK Bus. “We are committed to growing our business and encouraging more people to use our services and to use them more often. These new buses will see our investment reach some £240m in nearly 1500 vehicles over the last three years. This is enabling us to make a step change in the quality of service that we offer.

“It’s really important we provide the very greatest flexibility for those customers using wheelchairs and buggies.

“Fitting WiFi as standard is also increasingly important for our customers and all the vehicles will have leather or e-leather seating. We are determined to be at the forefront of customer service across the British bus industry.”

Regarding supporting British manufacturing, Giles said: “Our manufacturing partners continue to lead the world in terms of quality and value for money. I’m pleased our tradition of supporting the British transport industry remains strong.”

Colin Robertson, Chief Executive Officer of ADL, said: “We are delighted to be supplying almost 50% of First’s total new vehicle requirement this year. It is an endorsement of our class-leading products and the business relationship we have grown and nurtured with FirstGroup in recent years, working with them to raise the bar for the whole industry. I am particularly pleased that 142 of the 222 buses we will build for them are ultra-fuel efficient, 14-tonne Enviro300 single decks. These are achieving 9-10 mpg, which is bestin- class and provides significant whole life fuel savings versus many vehicles in service today.”

Wright Group Managing Director Mark Nodder said: “Wrightbus is thrilled to be awarded this substantial order from FirstGroup. It is a huge endorsement of the development of our StreetLite range of lightweight buses, which proved themselves best in class in every category at fuel trials conducted at Millbrook Proving Grounds under the close scrutiny of FirstGroup’s engineers. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with First, a partnership which has lasted more than 17 years.”

Ian Downie, Project Director at Volvo Bus, said: “It is fantastic news that our partnership with FirstGroup continues with this new tender award, and in particular, with the repeat order for our complete single deck citybus, the Volvo 7900 hybrid. The continued success of the Volvo B7RLE ensures it is the 18 tonne city bus product of FirstGroup’s’ choice.”

Optare’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Glenn Saint said: “I am very pleased FirstGroup is putting our Versa model into its fleet and I have no doubt it will meet, and exceed all their expectations. Versa is a well proven model, renowned for providing the highest standards of passenger and driver comfort, excellent reliability and classleading fuel efficiency, and I’m sure it will deliver on all of these key points for FirstGroup.”

First’s new buses will be fitted with EURO V engines. The £76m order consists primarily of single deckers and midi buses with 42 double deckers.

It follows the delivery in 2012 of a very high number of double deckers for First’s Olympic Shuttle services.