Bus and train operator remains on track

BUS and train operator FirstGroup said yesterday that the recent severe weather had cost it �7million in lost profits, but insisted that it remained on track to meet its target for the full year.

The group said its UK bus business, which includes many rural services in East Anglia, had continued to deliver a “steady” performance with like-for-like passenger revenues increased by 2.1% during the third quarter.

Actions to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and manage local networks in line with passenger demand would “enable the business to deliver good operating margin development”, said FirstGroup.

However,it warned that the Government’s revised guidance on concessionary fares reimbursement in England from April this year would have to be taken into account when planning future service provision and fares.

Further mitigating actions would be required as a 20% reduction in the Bus Service Operators Grant took effect from April 2012, it added.

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Within the group’s rail business, First said continued strong demand for services had helped to deliver further “solid” improvement across all of its passenger rail franchises (which include Great Western, Capital Connect, TransPennine Express and ScotRail) with like-for-like passenger revenues up 5.2%.

“Overall trading remains in line with management’s expectations,” added First. “Our drive to increase cash generation within the group is delivering results and, as previously reported, we continue to expect moderate earnings growth in the current financial year.”

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