East Anglia: Revenues boost for bus and train operator FirstGroup

TRAINS and buses operator FirstGroup said today that drivers switching from road to rail as a result of soaring fuel prices had provided a boost to revenues.

The public transport giant said that its rail business, which includes the Great Western, Capital Connect, ScotRail and TransPennine Express franchises, had recorded an 8.5% like-for-like increase in revenues in the three months to June 30.

First said that its services to the South West and the North East coasts had also been boosted by an increase the number of people taking holidays in the UK, with the impact of higher fuel prices on air fares coming on top of weakness in the value of the pound which made going abroad more expensive.

The group’s First Capital Connect commuter service to London from Brighton and Bedford, meanwhile, benefited from an increase in workers finding jobs in the capital.

First’s UK bus business, which operates in cities including Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield and Bristol, and also runs many rural services in East Anglia, also saw an increase in like-for-like revenue, up 0.7%.

The group said this was due to higher fares which offset a slight fall in passengers numbers, blamed on people making fewer shopping trips amid the squeeze on consumer spending.

Its Greyhound coach services in the United States saw like-for-like revenues grow by 3.7% as new express services delivered strong volume and sales growth.

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And the group’s First Transit bus division in the US also put in a good performance, winning a number of contracts for new routes, although margins at its schools bus business remained squeezed by government budget cuts.

First added that trading was in line with its expectations and it was encouraged by the improving trends in the rail division and the steady performance of the bus business.