FirstGroup expands US bus operations

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The Independent Online

FirstGroup, the UK's biggest bus operator, has expanded its US school bus operations with new contracts to run 616 more school buses across America. Yesterday, in London, it also unveiled a US-style yellow bus it hopes to introduce on UK school runs next year.

FirstGroup, the UK's biggest bus operator, has expanded its US school bus operations with new contracts to run 616 more school buses across America. Yesterday, in London, it also unveiled a US-style yellow bus it hopes to introduce on UK school runs next year.

The contracts will establish the British group, valued at £1.1bn, in 10 more American states after its £603m acquisition last summer of Ryder, the second-largest US school bus operator. FirstGroup runs more than 11,000 US school buses. A third of bus-runs overall are outsourced by school districts.

E Bruce Lyskawa, a vice-president of the group, said: "There are a lot of possibilities to convert districts. Outsourcing allows them to focus on education and save a lot of dollars."

Yesterday, FirstGroup chief executive Moir Lockhead said he hoped to import the model to the UK, where 20 per cent of schoolchildren use a bus compared with 54 per cent of American under-12s. "We believe the yellow school bus concept is the catalyst for change, it is recognised, known and trusted." The company is in talks with local authorities. A spokesman said: "We have had a whole range of approaches." The system, in which children are checked off individually, provided safety and flexibility and could cut down congestion, he said.

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