Countdown to 2020

March 25, 2012



First Group

The most significant contribution we can make to carbon emissions reduction is to attract people out of their cars to use our services instead.

We have been instrumental in establishing Greener Journeys-an industry partnership involving the major bus and coach operators in the UK. Greener journeys encourages people to switch from cars to bus and coach and influences policy development to support this.

The Greener Journeys One Billion Challenge

If everyone in the UK switched from car to bus or coach for one journey in 25 we could save 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and remove one billion car journeys from our roads.

We are equally committed to reducing our own emissions – a pledge set out in our Climate Change Policy and the associated Climate Change Strategy.

Copies of these documents can be found at

Our Climate Change Strategy includes the following objectives and targets:

  • reduce carbon emissions from 2006 levels by 10% in the UK Rail Division and by 12% in the UK Bus Division by April 2012;
  • improve fuel efficiency and thus our emissions per kilometre travelled;
  • cut emissions per passenger kilometre through improved efficiency and by attracting more passengers to our services.

Over 90% of our carbon footprint arises as a result of the operation of vehicles. Reducing the emissions from our vehicles is therefore central to reducing our carbon footprint. In the medium term our strategy is to optimise the efficiency of our existing vehicles.

We continue to lead the industry in improving the efficiency of our existing vehicle fleet through the work of our dedicated engineering team.

  • In 2009 we became the first train operator to retrofit monitoring systems, which accurately measure the amount of electricity we use on our trains. This information will help us reduce energy consumption.
  • In the same year we commissioned regenerative braking on all our new trains in First Capital Connect.
  • First Hull Trains is the first UK train operating company to introduce driver advisory systems, which inform drivers on more fuel-efficient driving.
  • We have installed driver advisory systems on all 9,000 of our UK buses. We are now evaluating the introduction of these systems in North America.
  • We completed baseline vehicle testing in North America to determine the engine modifications we can make to improve fuel efficiency. 102 new vehicles with these modifications were introduced in Greyhound.
  • First TransPennine Express won the 2010 Environmental Award at the Rail Business Awards for its fuel efficiency programme, which has reduced fuel consumption by 10.5%.

Promoting more fuel-efficient driving

All UK buses now have LED displays on the dashboard, helping the driver to drive more fuel-efficiently. Back-up software scores each driving session allowing further evaluation and improvement. A £2 million reward pool has been established to motivate drivers to reach the highest standards. The initiative is achieving fuel efficiency savings of around 5%.

Improving fuel efficiency in Greyhound

We have tested our Greyhound vehicles extensively to identify fuel-efficient engineering modifications. The adaptations identified, which will deliver around 5% to 7% fuel efficiency savings, are being applied to all new vehicles and will form part of a 2010 refurbishment programme for some existing vehicles.

Alternative technology

We constantly investigate opportunities to trial technological innovation. While future car technology is clearly being pushed towards large-scale electrification, the long-term solutions for heavy goods vehicles and buses are still evolving.

  • We partner Transport for London in hybrid bus trials. We have also successfully secured Government funding to support the delivery of 22 new hybrid vehicles to our Leeds and Manchester operations.
  • Following earlier successful trials on hydrogen vehicles with Transport for London, we will launch further trials in late 2010 operating five hydrogen fuel cell buses.
  • Proterra, the manufacturer of city transit vehicles, will supply 12 fast-charge battery powered electric buses to Los Angeles County’s Foothill Transit Authority which is operated by First Transit. This groundbreaking lithium titanate battery technology recharges in less than 10 minutes. The vehicles are lightweight and include regenerative braking systems that will radically reduce energy consumption.

Careful monitoring of the successes and impacts of all these trials will provide the basis for our long-term vehicle purchase and engine strategy.

Trialling hybrid buses

Since January 2009 we have operated five hybrid buses in partnership with Transport for London. Through the trials this developing technology is being tested on high frequency, high loading routes. Despite a number of technical issues we are working closely with the manufacturers to improve reliability. Generally we are achieving between 10%-20% improvement in fuel efficiency over normal diesel buses, with a target of 30%.

  • We have an ongoing programme to reduce energy consumption across our properties. During 2009/10 we introduced a new data management and reporting system to meet the requirements of the Government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme that came into force in April 2010. The majority of our electricity meters have been replaced by automatic smart metering which will improve our understanding of energy usage trends.
  • Reductions in energy usage are driven by action at local level. We seek to engage employees in our environmental programmes through our Small Changes Big Difference campaign.
  • In London we have trialled a range of energy-efficient lighting solutions, installing the preferred option at two main depots. This resulted in energy savings of 58%, cost savings of 60% and an improved workplace for staff. The experience from this programme will now be rolled out to other depots.
  • Our Scotland East operations have formed an Energy Conservation Group to reduce wastage at our depots. Initiatives include heating control restrictions, LED lighting trials and installation of light sensors. The result is a reduction in gas usage of 35% and electricity consumption of 5% in 2009 compared to 2008 levels.
  • Within their environmental programme our Greyhound terminal in Chicago has replaced old, inefficient lighting with new, state of the art, energy-efficient alternatives. The upgrade has reduced energy consumption at the location by an average of 9% per year.