The roots of Arriva are in Sunderland, where the company still has its head office. Back in 1938 the Cowie family opened a second-hand motorcycle shop in Sunderland. That was the first venture by what has grown to be an international business trading in 15 European countries.
In 1960 the company – still called Cowie – moved into motor retailing. And in 1980 it started to purchase bus companies with the acquisition of the Grey-Green bus company in London. Over the next few years, there were more bus company acquisitions, with the biggest – British Bus Group plc – in 1996 making the business one of the largest bus operators in the UK.
Arriva was born in 1997, bringing together many different company backgrounds under the Arriva flag. Also in that year Arriva acquired its first business on the European mainland – Unibus Holdings in Denmark.
In 1999 Arriva decided to focus its management and financial resources to enable the group to capitalise on opportunities in passenger transportation in the UK and mainland Europe. Subsequently the group successfully disposed of a number of major motor retailing and finance businesses. This process was completed by the summer of 2003 and the sale of its vehicle rental division followed in 2006.
During that time Arriva has established a position as one of the leading transport services organisations in Europe with bus and train operations in the UK, Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. In addition Arriva has bus operations in Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. In the UK, Arriva also operates a bus and coach distribution business and a specialist transport business which provides health and social transport services.
In 2010, Arriva was acquired by Deutsche Bahn, one of the world’s leading passenger and logistics service providers, employing 295,000 people across 130 countries.