First Group invests in information as passengers rise

has reported a healthy half year revenues as travellers leave their cars at home and opt for public transport. The British company has been investing in travel information systems to retain its new customer base.

The Aberdeen based company reported that its group revenue increased by 56.5 percent with revenue for the six months ending September at £2.8 billion (US$13.5 billion).

"Across all our businesses trading has been good and we have achieved strong revenue growth underpinned by our investment in operational performance and customer service," said Sir Moir Lockhead, chief executive of First Group.

As travellers, especially in the UK, find car travel increasingly expensive due to rising oil prices, First Group, and . Already this year fellow Scottish transport group Stagecoach has reported a rise in passenger numbers and First Group said it was gaining passengers as result of rising prices and environmental concern. Its rail division reported an increase in passenger revenue of 9.8 percent and its bus network 7.7 percent. "Bus passenger volumes increased by approximately two percent and we are encouraged by the growing number of people switching to public transport from other modes of travel," Lockhead said.

First Group is investing £15 million in a new station information and security system for its First Great Western franchise, which operates trains out of London Paddington to the west and Oxford. The upgrade has attracted £15m of funding from Network Rail.

First Group is Britain's largest bus operator with a fleet of 9,000 buses that carry nearly three million passengers a day in 40 of Britain's major towns and cities. As a rail operator, First Group has some of the most important franchises, including Scottish network First ScotRail, East Anglian, London and Brighton network and the Pennine network. In the US the company has acquired the iconic Greyhound coach operator and famous yellow school bus operator Laidlaw.