National Express gears up for three-way East Anglia Rail Franchise contest

c2c train.

c2c train. - Credit: Archant

One of the shortlisted bidders for the East Anglia Rail Franchise has delivered “industry-leading” punctuality and a boost to passenger numbers on its current rail franchise as it positions itself in the three-way race to run the line, it says.

National Express’s c2c rail services saw a 5% rise in passenger numbers year-to-date, and revenues rise by 10% in the year to date, it announced in its interim management statement.

The bus, coach and rail group has operated the London, Tilbury & Southend passenger franchise since May 1996 and became the operator of the replacement Essex Thameside franchise from November 2014.

It is now vying with First East Anglia and a joint bid from Abellio, which took over the franchise from National Express in 2012, and Stagecoach to take over the East Anglia Rail Franchise from October 2016.

An interim management statement published on Thursday for the period from July to September said the group had continued its “strong progress”.

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Revenue grew year on year in every division, and for the year to date, like-for-like group operating profit was up 6% higher after excluding rail and Middle East bid costs.

It remained on course to deliver “good quality growth for 2015 as a whole”, it said, with group revenue up 3% and operating profit up 7% in the period”.

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Group chief executive Dean Finch said he was “delighted” the firm’s focus on operational excellence and delivering for our customers was being recognised in its results.

“In recent months we have won or started new contracts in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and North America and we will shortly start running our first trains in Germany. I look forward to continuing to build on this success in the coming months and years,” he said.

During the period, National Express was named as the highest ranked public transport operator in the UK Customer Service Index and c2c, was named Passenger Operator of the Year at the National Rail Awards.

“In the UK we are working on our bid for the East Anglia rail franchise which will be submitted in December and we have been shortlisted for the Manchester Metrolink contract, with a decision due next year,” he said.

“We remain on track to deliver our target free cash flow of £100 million in 2015. We expect to close the year within our target of 2 to 2.5 times net debt to EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization).”

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