Alexander wins bulk of £70m First Bus orders

Aberdeen-based transport giant FirstGroup said its bus division has ordered 305 new vehicles worth £70 million — and that 204 of the buses will be made by Falkirk-based Alexander Dennis.

This follows news on April 11 that Perth-based Stagecoach Group announced 480 new vehicle orders worth £97 million and that Alexander Dennis would make at least 415 of those.

The order by First Bus brings the company’s investment over the last six years to £455 million in 2,500 new vehicles.

“With 98% of the order to be manufactured in the UK, the fleet investment by First Bus provides a big boost to British manufacturing helping to support hundreds of UK jobs,” FirstGroup said.

Alexander Dennis will manufacture 204 of the vehicles, Northern Ireland’s Wrightbus will make 91 buses, and Volvo will build 10 coach chassis in Sweden, with the bodies manufactured by Alexander Dennis.

“First Bus is proud to continue supporting British bus manufacturers,” said Giles Fearnley, managing director of First Bus.

“Our manufacturing partners continue to lead the world in quality, innovation, fuel efficiency and value for money.

“I’m pleased that we’ve again invested heavily in our fleet and our tradition of supporting the British manufacturing industry remains strong.”

FirstGroup said the new order consolidates its position as one of the largest operators of low carbon emission buses in the UK.

About 87% of the new vehicles will be Department for Transport approved ‘low carbon certified’, which First Bus estimates will save 4 million kg of CO2 per year.

The 2016-17 investment will bring the company’s fleet of low carbon certified vehicles to around 1,000, believed to be one of the largest in the UK, saving in total an estimated 14.5 million kg of CO2 annually.

All 305 new buses will be fitted with the latest Euro VI engines, which produce 95% less oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions compared to buses with Euro V engines “and as a result will help improve air quality in the towns and cities in which First Bus operates.”

All the new buses will have the latest technology, with free Wi-Fi.

By the end of the financial year, around 60% of the 6,300 First Bus fleet will be Wi-Fi enabled.

Most passengers will now have leather seats and around 30% of First Bus vehicles will now have USB charging points, allowing customers to charge their phones and tablets on the move.

Fearnley added: “We are determined to make the bus a more compelling proposition, attract more customers and grow our business.

“Ensuring that our customers travel in modern, comfortable, fit for purpose vehicles which provide added value such as free Wi-Fi and USB charging is pivotal to our customer engagement strategy and our future success …

“In 2015, we announced the largest order on record in the UK for vehicles with Euro VI engines, complementing efforts from our partners in local councils to improve air quality in our towns and cities.

“Our 2016 order again reflects our commitment to working with our partners to reduce emissions and improve the environment.”