A TRAVEL operator running buses across the North-East has hailed record passenger numbers after seeing pre-tax profits rise.

Go-Ahead, which runs about 675 buses in the region, said pre-tax profits lifted 45 per cent to £91.2m for the year to June 28.

It added operating profits were up 19 per cent to £103.2m.

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The company employs more than 2,000 people in the North-East, with services covering Tyne and Wear, County Durham, Teesside and Northumberland.

Last year, it carried more than 71 million passengers on journeys across the region.

David Brown, chief executive, said: “We have performed very well in the financial year with our bus and rail divisions both delivering strong results, which were significantly ahead of initial expectations.

“Record numbers of passengers travelled on our services, and the end of the year marked the halfway point towards our bus operating profit target.

“We made steady progress towards in the year, and remain confident of achieving £100m of bus operating profit by 2015/16.

“The group is in a very good financial position, with strong cash management allowing us to increase investment while reducing our net debt and the board’s confidence has allowed us to propose a full year dividend of 84.5p, which is an increase of 4.3 per cent.”

The company also highlighted the Thameslink rail network franchise being awarded to Govia Thameslink, which is a joint venture majority-owned by Go-Ahead.

It will run for seven years from this month.