A TRANSPORT operator hopes improved technology across its North-East services will make bus travel “easier and more appealing”.

Go-Ahead is planning to launch a contactless ticketing scheme across the region, which it claims will bring benefits to customers and efficiencies to its business.

The moves comes following the company’s third quarter trading update, which shows a revenue rise of 1.5 per cent for its bus division.

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The group issued a profit warning in February which it claimed was down to North-East bus passengers’ continued reluctance to use public transport and the fragility of the region’s economy.

Bosses at the company, which has an office in Newcastle, said it remained in a “strong financial position” with “good” cash generation and a “robust” balance sheet.

A spokesperson for Go Ahead said: “Regional bus has continued to deliver increasing revenue in line with expectations and, although subdued, passenger volumes are outperforming the wider industry, with growth in some regions offsetting declining volumes in operating areas.

“The adjusted year to date growth rates are more indicative than the unadjusted figures because of the timing of bank holidays around the half year end and the timing of Easter.

Go-Ahead’s bus fleet includes The Castles Express, which runs between Bishop Auckland and Newcastle via Durham City and Chester-le-Street; Wear Xpress, which carries people between Sunderland and Peterlee, east Durham; and The Waggonway, which takes passengers between Chester-le-Street, Beamish, Gateshead and Newcastle.

The spokesperson added: “Our local management teams are focused on attracting more passengers onto our buses by delivering frequent, reliable, value for money services and by making bus travel easier and more appealing.

“Our first contactless ticketing pilot scheme will shortly be introduced in Oxford, to be followed by a similar scheme in the North-East in the summer.

“We look forward to rolling out the latest contactless technology across all our operations throughout this calendar year, bringing benefits to customers and efficiencies to our business.”

The group, which is also behind strike-hit Southern Railway, said it is delivering a "more reliable" service to commuters, but added that passenger revenue has slumped following a long-running industrial dispute with unions over proposals for so-called driver-only operated trains.

Passenger revenue from the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) service fell five per cent in the nine months to April 1, whilst passenger journeys were down three-and-a-half per cent.

However, the firm said its service has now "stabilised".

The spokesperson added: "Service levels have stabilised following the previous periods of industrial action, delivering more reliable rail services to customers.

"Discussions between GTR and the Aslef and the RMT unions continue with the aim of resolving the ongoing industrial disputes.

"GTR remains fully committed to resolving these issues so as to provide improved service for customers and reduce uncertainty for our stakeholders."