Bus demand boosts Stagecoach

PASSENGER LIFT: Stagecoach hybrid buses in Newcastle.

PASSENGER LIFT: Stagecoach hybrid buses in Newcastle.

First published in Business: Shares The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

BUS operator Stagecoach enjoyed a strong summer as rising passenger numbers helped lift regional service revenues.

The company, which operates across Teesside, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle, reported a 0.9 per cent increase in passenger volumes outside London for the 12 weeks to July 20.

Across the group, bosses said overall trading was satisfactory, after revenues from its UK rail division, including South West Trains and East Midlands Trains lifted 4.9 per cent.

Its North America arm posted the same rate of growth amid the continued expansion of its megabus.com service.

The company's 8,000 buses and coaches transport 2.5 million people nationwide every day.

Earlier this year, it placed orders worth more than £90m on new greener buses for 2014 and 2015, as it highlighted its confidence in ''continuing to get people out of their cars and back on board the bus''.

Stagecoach said revenues earned directly from fare-paying passengers contributed most to the bus division's four per cent growth rate, with concessionary, contract, tendered and school revenues also continuing to grow despite efforts by local authorities to minimise concessionary reimbursements.

A report said: "Although there are a number of challenges to growing profit in the year ending April 30 2015, overall current trading is satisfactory and we remain on course to meet our expectations for the year."

The company recently failed to secure the new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchise, but this was offset by the award of a new West Coast franchise until 2017.

It is in discussions with the Department for Transport over extensions to its South West and East Midlands franchises, although a decision is not expected until after the General Election.

A report added: "The financial performance of our UK rail division is in line with expectations, as we continue to focus on growing revenue and controlling costs to mitigate the substantial increases in premia payments to the Department for Transport (DfT).

"We continue to discuss with the DfT the planned extensions to our South West Trains and East Midlands Trains franchises, and now expect these will be formally awarded shortly after the General Election.

"We were disappointed not to have been selected to operate the Docklands Light Railway franchise, but remain optimistic about our prospects.

"We have submitted a bid with Virgin as one of three shortlisted bidders for the new East Coast franchise and we expect the DfT to confirm the operator of that franchise later in 2014.

"Earlier this month, the DfT also confirmed that we are one of three shortlisted bidders for a new TransPennine Express rail franchise.

"It's our intention to bid selectively on future rail franchises where we believe there is the right risk-reward profile and we can add value to our shareholders."

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