East Anglia: Stagecoach profits rise as Britain get’ ‘back on board the bus’

Stagecoach has reported another strong half-year for its bus and coach business.

Stagecoach has reported another strong half-year for its bus and coach business. - Credit: Ally Carmichael/Newscast

Stagecoach said today taht Britain was getting “back on board the bus” as it delivered another robust performance in its bus and coach divisions.

The group, which has 8,000 vehicles serving 2.5million people a day, posted a 4.6% increase in half-year regional bus revenues and said the division was going from “strength to strength”.

Overall bus earnings, up 0.1% to £76.9m, were impacted as it came up against tough comparisons with the 2012 Olympics, but profits from regional operations grew 5.6% with that hit stripped out while its London bus business saw operating profits rise 15.7%.

Stagecoach, which in East Anglia operates bus services in the Cambridge, Newmarket, Haverhill and Ely areas, said people were increasingly ditching cars in favour of travelling by bus and coach in the UK and US, where it operates around 2,800 buses and coaches, including its Megabus operation linking around 100 locations.

Earnings leapt 40% higher in its north American business after like-for-like revenues increased 7.5% and it said it was on track to deliver a “significant” increase in earnings for the full year.

It also plans to ramp up its presence in the US, where it already operates in 40 states, while it is also considering rolling-out premium day and overnight services to new locations.

Chairman Brian Souter said: “North America presents huge opportunities for the group.

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“The current high proportion of travel by car means there is a significant potential market for our commuter and inter-city bus services.”

Overall group pre-tax profits rose 2% to £98.5m in the six months to October 31.

Earnings slipped 2.7% to £18m in its rail business, which includes South West Trains and East Midlands Trains, which includes services between Norwich and Peterborough. The group said rail revenues growth, up 3.3%, - was also hampered by the Olympics comparison from a year earlier.

It added that discussions have not progressed as quickly as hoped with the Department of Transport on planned extensions to the South Western and West Coast rail franchises, although it expects talks to conclude in the second half of 2014.

Virgin Rail, in which it holds a 49% stake, operates the West Coast Main Line and will continue to run the franchise under a temporary deal until at least 2017 after the Government’s botched re-tendering saga.

It said the Virgin Rail Group joint venture suffered an 80% plunge in earnings in the first half due to the change in contract for the franchise, although revenues lifted 6.1%.