Stagecoach can now call itself ‘Britain’s biggest bus operator’ after it’s UK fleet size nudged ahead of rival FirstGroup.

Perth-based Stagecoach operates 8,100 buses across England, Scotland and Wales after adding 1,300-vehicle East London Bus Group to it’s portfolio last year.

This was still short of the 8,500-strong fleet claimed by FirstGroup in its 2010 annual report. However, announcing an £160m order for 955 new buses this week (see page 8 for details), Aberdeen-based FirstGroup had scaled this claim back to 8,000 vehicles, meaning that Stagecoach has now nosed ahead in terms of fleet size.

FirstGroup’s UK fleet size has been falling steadily in recent years. In 2005, the group claimed to operate 9,300 vehicles in the UK – 1,300 more vehicles than it claims to operate today – a 14% reduction.

A Stagecoach Group spokesman commented: “We’ve never been fixated with being the biggest bus operator. Like our customers, we believe offering the best value bus travel in Britain and providing a greener, smarter alternative to the car is more important.”