FirstGroup strikes gold with £20m London Olympics deal

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FirstGroup dealt a blow to its major rivals yesterday by landing the £20m contract to provide the buses and coaches that will transport spectators to the London 2012 Olympics.

It is understood that the transport operator was one of seven providers, including Stage Coach, National Express and Go-Ahead, shortlisted to provide nearly 1,000 buses and coaches for the Games in Stratford, East London. A total of 77 companies originally tendered for the contract.

While the size of the deal is relatively modest, the contract is highly prestigious and will provide a global branding platform for the Aberdeen-based company.

First Group, which runs nearly 9,000 buses and four rail franchises in the UK, provided transport for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. This was thought to have been a key factor in its successful bid.

The company, which also operates Greyhound coaches in North America, will deliver about 590 buses and coaches to shuttle spectators to the 2012 Olympics, as well as connecting them to park-and-ride locations on the periphery of the M25. A further fleet of 300 buses, sub-contracted from other coach companies, will take spectators to Stratford, as well as Weymouth and Portland in Dorset, where the Olympic sailing events will be held.

Sir Moir Lockhead, the chief executive of FirstGroup, said yesterday: "We look forward to using our expertise and experience in working with the Olympic Delivery Authority to meet the travel requirements of spectators of the Olympic Games in 2012."

First Group will manage the direct coach operations, a bus and coach reservation system, and provide support staff at bus and coach locations to manage the fleet.

The company's buses carry three million passengers in the UK every day and employ 26,500 staff. It also runs the First Capital Connect, First Great Western, First ScotRail and First TransPennine Express rail franchises, as well as an open-access operator, First Hull Trains.

Companies in other industries are lining up to get involved in London 2012. Earlier this month, John Lewis department stores said it would sponsor the Games and sell official merchandise, as well as providing furniture, warehousing and staff for the event.