August 19, 2009

FirstGroup to launch Greyhound service in U.K.



FirstGroup unveiled the first Greyhound coaches, which will introduce the iconic brand to the U.K. Greyhound UK will launch September 14 between London and the coastal cities of Portsmouth and Southampton, with plans to add further destinations next year.

Greyhound UK will offer a range of fares starting from £1 ($1.63), plus 50p booking fee, on www.greyhounduk.com. The new 41-seat Scania Irizar coaches will include leather seating, free Wi-Fi, power sockets, air conditioning, complimentary newspapers and up to 20 percent extra leg room compared with competitive services, and industry-leading customer service, said company officials.

“Our services will be more attractive than rival bus and train options, but we also believe that Greyhound UK’s growth will come from persuading more people to leave their cars at home and opt instead for our coaches," said Sir Moir Lockhead, FirstGroup’s CEO.  "By providing these services at an unbeatable price, and doing so with the carbon footprint around 23 percent of journeys by private car, we think we will really make an impact on how people will travel in the future.”

FirstGroup is Britain’s largest bus and rail operator and is already one of Britain’s biggest scheduled coach operators with over 250 vehicles operating under a variety of brand names. The company is evaluating plans to roll out new Greyhound UK services from 2010.

The hourly service between London and Portsmouth and London and Southampton will offer curb-side pick ups at a number of locations in both cities. Greyhound services will also integrate with ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight. All services will be non-stop between the two cities, taking under two hours and providing a journey time advantage up to 40 percent over other coach operators whose services typically stop a number of times at intermediate locations including Heathrow, according to Alex Warner, Greyhound UK’s managing director.

“Market research we’ve conducted shows that 46 percent of existing rail customers and 73 percent of current coach customers would consider trying a new coach service based on the Greyhound product and service proposition,” said Warner.

The new services will be marketed through a multi-media campaign with a focus on targeted online advertising complemented by more traditional print and field marketing activities. The services aim to attract a young demographic profile that is media and technologically savvy, such as the large student populations in the cities served. In addition, the new service hopes to entice commuters, day trippers and those attending sporting and other entertainment events at both ends of the routes.

All Greyhound UK coaches will have names. The theme will be women’s names from popular American songs such as "Sweet Caroline," "Barbara Ann," "Jolene" and "Peggy Sue."

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