Our history

Arriva’s roots are in Sunderland in the UK, where we still have our head office. Back in 1938 the Cowie family opened a second-hand motorcycle shop in Sunderland – the first venture by what has grown to be an international business trading across Europe.

Today, Arriva is part of Deutsche Bahn, responsible for the group’s regional passenger transport growth outside of Germany.


Transforming rail travel

Having begun 2015 with the awarding of a 5-year contract to operate bus services in Nis, the largest city in southern Serbia, Arriva went from strength to strength, increasing its presence in Central and Eastern Europe with the acquisition of two bus operating companies in Slovakia, and established Slovenian bus operator Alpetour, which saw Arriva double the size of its operations in the country.

In Southern Europe, Arriva was proud to be named the official transport provider for the 2015 Milan Expo – a multi-national trade exhibition which attracted over 22 million visitors. This was a major win for Arriva’s Italian business, with the contract operated jointly between Arriva-owned operators SIA, SAIA Trasporti, SAL and SAB Autoservizi.

In Northern Europe, Arriva’s growth story continued with the awarding of a £1.4 billion contract to operate buses and trains in the Dutch province of Limburg. This lucrative contract came only six months after Arriva began to operate an eight-year and a 10-year bus contract in the Brabant region, while a four-year contract win to operate buses in Southeast Friesland and on the Waddeneilanden islands further cemented Arriva’s position as one of the leading transport operators in The Netherlands.

Meanwhile in Denmark, Arriva officially launched its ground-breaking DriveNow programme in Copenhagen – the world's largest 100 per cent electric city car concept. While DriveNow is already operating successfully in several major cities in Europe and the United States, Arriva’s was the first city car concept to be integrated with public transport in a metropolitan area.

In the UK, Arriva announced an investment in excess of £45 million to facilitate a major upgrade of its UK Bus fleet, including the roll-out of more than 230 new environmentally friendly vehicles. This commitment to more sustainable fuel and energy brought our total investment in the UK fleet to over £500 million since 2008 and saw Arriva London operate the capital’s first fully electric bus route in September.

October saw Arriva-owned Chiltern Railways launch its Oxford to London service following a unique £320 million investment – the first new line to link a major British city and London in more than 100 years. And to round off a great 2015, in December it was announced that Arriva had secured one of the UK’s largest rail contracts – Northern – adding another 5,000 people to our 55,000 workforce until 2025, with a £1 billion investment to transform rail travel across the North of England.


Continued growth

Arriva Nederland and VDL Bus & Coach sign a delivery and maintenance contract for 164 new buses worth a total value of more than €67 million. The new environmentally friendly buses form part of the vehicle fleet for the East and West Brabant concessions, having both been awarded to Arriva in a deal worth over €1.2 billion.

Deutsche Bahn (DB), in conjunction with Arriva, launches new long-distance IC Bus service from Germany to Belgium, via the Netherlands. The new route, which runs from Dusseldorf to Antwerp, via Eindhoven, is operated jointly by Arriva and DB Long-Distance with three departures and arrivals each day.

Underpinned by the development of market leading positions in Central and Eastern Europe, Arriva announces strong year of growth and expansion. A strategic approach to recruiting and developing people ensures Arriva maintain a highly engaged and committed workforce with the appointment of 80 new apprentices.

To facilitate a major upgrade of its core fleet during 2014, Arriva UK Bus announces an investment programme worth in excess of £40 million. In supporting the business’ on-going commitment to cut emissions and reduce its environmental impact through its eco-driving programme, Arriva partners with two of the UK’s leading bus manufacturers to introduce more than 200 new carbon efficient vehicles.

With a focus on quality and delivering innovative and sustainable transport services for its customers, Arriva renews high-profile 10-year contract to operate bus services in the Slovenian coastal city of Koper. The new contract, worth more than €14 million, sees the introduction of 12 new Mercedes Citaro and Sprinter City low-emission vehicles alongside new smartcard ticketing technology.


Largest international operator in Central and Eastern Europe

Arriva acquires Veolia Transport Central Europe and becomes the largest international passenger transport operator in Central and Eastern Europe. This acquisition sees the company expand its operations into Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia while it also strengthens its position in the Czech Republic bus market with the purchase of Probo Bus and PT Real.

Arriva starts to operate phase two of E20 – Sweden’s largest multi-modal transport contract – as well as a new two-year rail contract in Poland and the company is awarded a contract extension to operate its London Overground service until 2016. Arriva Transport Solutions also begins its new NHS non-emergency transport contracts across the UK.

As part of its wider commitment to innovation, Arriva acquires a majority stake in technology company Zeta Automotive Ltd, which supplies leading edge products that enable fleet operators to reduce fuel consumption and emissions output.


Move into specialist transport market

Arriva acquires specialist patient transport company Ambuline, expanding its position in social and healthcare passenger transport. It also acquires the Midland bus company, which is integrated into the group’s Arriva Midlands bus operations.

Contract wins continue with two major bus franchises in the Netherlands and two more in Budapest, Hungary, as part of a local joint venture. Arriva's UK specialist transport business, Arriva Transport Solutions, wins a three-year NHS contract to provide non-emergency patient transport in Greater Manchester. Meanwhile, the company also re-wins the bus contract on the island of Schiermonnikoog, Netherlands, and its train contract in western Jutland, Denmark, is extended to 2018.


Responsibility for Deutsche Bahn businesses outside Germany

Arriva acquires open access rail operator Grand Central Railway in the UK and wins E20 – a 12-year contract to operate bus and rail services in Stockholm, Sweden.

Businesses operated by Deutsche Bahn outside of Germany become part of Arriva. These include Chiltern Railways, London Overground Rail Operations, Tyne and Wear Metro, Pan Bus (Denmark), Östgötapendeln and Botniatåg (both Sweden). Four Axiom Rail depots transfer from DB Schenker Rail (UK) Ltd to Arriva's LNWR rail maintenance operations.


Acquisition by Deutsche Bahn

Arriva acquires its joint venture partner’s stake in Arriva PCC, the Polish rail company and is awarded a 10-year regional rail contract in the Kujawsko Pomorskie region of the country. As part of two separate local consortia, Arriva is awarded a contract to operate bus services in Malta and a five-year contract to operate and maintain the Metro de Porto, the Portuguese city’s tram network.

In August 2010, Arriva is acquired by Deutsche Bahn, one of the world's leading passenger and logistics service providers. Arriva is subsequently delisted from the London Stock Exchange and sells its successful German operations, which had grown to be a £400 million turnover business over five years.


Successfully retaining contracts in European markets

Arriva follows up the previous year’s investment by purchasing the remaining 20 per cent stake in Hungary’s Interbus Invest and becomes the first private bus operator in 10 years to enter the Stockholm market in Sweden. The company gains new bus and rail contracts in Gelderland, Netherlands, as well as bus services in the Halland region of Sweden. Arriva also re-wins Denmark’s Jutland rail contract for a further eight years from 2010.


Acquisitions and expansion into Hungary and Slovaki

Arriva increases its shareholding in Italian company SAIA Transporti to 100 per cent and a further 10 per cent in Portuguese company Barraqueiro. New acquisitions include UK bus, coach and airport transfer provider Tellings Golden Miller Group and Spanish bus operator Empresa de Blas y Cia S.L.

The company also expands its presence in Germany through the acquisition of Sudbrandeburger Nahverkehrs (SBN) and purchases the remaining 20 per cent of SADEM S.p.A. and its subsidiaries in Italy. Contract wins include the Göteborg-Örebo rail franchise in Sweden.

In the same year, Arriva enters the Hungarian and Slovakia bus markets through the acquisition of 80 per cent of Interbus Invest, Hungary’s largest private bus operator.


New contract wins in UK, Sweden and the Netherlands

Arriva strengthens its position in mainland European bus markets with the acquisition of two Madrid-based companies in Spain; two more in the Czech Republic; and Denmark’s second largest operator. It enters into a joint venture with Ferrovie Nord Milano Group (FNM S.p.A.) and acquires a 49 per cent stake in Italian operator SPT Linea. It also expands in Germany with the acquisition of a majority stake in bus and rail company Osthannoversche Eisenbahnen AG.

Major contract wins include being awarded the CrossCountry rail franchise in the UK, a Stockholm bus contract in Sweden and a new bus contract to the south of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Arriva also becomes the first private company to enter the Polish rail market with a three-year contract to operate train services in the northwest of the country.


Major acquisitions and contract wins

Arriva makes a series of acquisitions, including Premier Buses in the UK; German bus operator Verkehrsbetriebe Bils KG; a 21.5 per cent stake in Barraqueiro Group SGPS SA of Portugal; and a 35 per cent stake in Trieste Trasporti in Italy. It also enters the Czech bus market with the acquisition of Transcentrum Bus s.r.o and increases its stake in Regentalbahn AG, in Germany, to 100 per cent.

Arriva gains entry into the Swedish rail market with a nine-year contract to operate the Pagatag regional train services. It also expands its rail operations in Germany after winning a 10-year contract for services between Munich, Oberstdorf and Lindau and a 12-year contract in Bavaria. Growth continues with a 12-year contract to run buses and trains in the Netherlands between Dordrecht and Geldermalsen, as well as a contract to acquire 80 per cent of German bus operator Neisseverkehr GmbH.


Growth in Germany continues

Arriva enters the German bus market with the acquisition of Sippel Group – one of the country’s largest privately owned operators. The company also acquires Blue Bus and Coaches of Bolton, UK, plus 80 per cent of Italian bus operator SADEM and increases its stake in Societa Autoservizi, F.V.G S.p.A. to 60 per cent.

In the same year, Arriva announces that it has won the contract to operate rail services in Bavaria, Germany for 10 years from 2007. It is also awarded a 15-year rail contract in Friesland and Groningen, Denmark, as well as a six-year contract to operate buses in Waterland, north of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.


Entry into the German rail market

Arriva enters the German rail market with its acquisition of Prignitzer Eisenbahn Gruppe as well as a 76.9 per cent stake in Regentalbahn AG. The company also increases its position in the Italian and Danish bus markets with the purchase of a 49 per cent stake in Societa Autoservizi, F.V.G S.p.A. and full control of Copenhagen’s largest operator.


Growing rail operations

Arriva completes its purchase of Transportes Sul do Tejo after buying the remaining 49 per cent stake and takes 100 per cent control of the Dutch bus/rail joint venture it started in 1999.

Arriva becomes the first private company to win rail franchises in Denmark and wins the contract to provide public transport services to Groningen and Drenthe until 2009.

Meanwhile, the company’s UK rail operations expand into Wales after it wins the tender for a 15-year integrated passenger rail franchise, creating Arriva Trains Wales/Trenau Arriva Cymru.


Further expansion in Iberia

Arriva continues its expansion in Spain after buying two major operators in Mallorca. In Portugal, this growth is replicated after Arriva acquires the majority stake in Transportes Sul do Tejo - the biggest operator of bus services to the south of Lisbon. Arriva also becomes the largest private bus operator in Italy with the acquisition of SAB Autoservizi.


Largest bus operator in Denmark

Arriva becomes the largest bus operator in Denmark following the acquisition of Combus, the country’s major bus services provider.


Expansion into the UK rail market

Arriva enters the UK rail market and acquires MTL bus operations on Merseyside. The company also enters the Portuguese bus market with the acquisition of two companies in northwest Portugal.


Emergence of a major player in the European bus market

The Cowie family opens 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.

The company – still called Cowie – moves into motor retailing.

The company’s first bus acquisition in the UK (Grey-Green Coaches of London) precedes Arriva’s entry into the country’s bus market in the same year.

The business expands into vehicle rental in the UK. The vehicle rental division is sold 15 years later in 2006, as Arriva completes its fundamental repositioning to focus on the passenger transport markets in the UK and mainland Europe.

Further bus company acquisitions include national transport provider, the British Bus Group, to make Arriva the UK’s second largest bus company.

The beginning of a journey of growth in mainland Europe starts with the acquisition of Unibus Holdings in Denmark, including its bus operations over the border in Sweden.

Arriva enters the Dutch bus market and acquires Vancom Nederland and Veonn & Hanze – making the company a major operator of inter-urban commuter coach services.

Arriva expands in Denmark with the acquisition of Bus Denmark and begins operating bus and rail services in Friesland under a joint venture, as well as train services in Groningen. Expansion into the Spanish bus market follows with the acquisition of two bus companies in Galicia, northwest Spain.

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