Go-Ahead profits boosted by more bus passengers

Plymouth CityBus
Image caption Go-Ahead said more people were leaving the car at home and taking the bus instead

More people taking the bus has helped lift half-year profits at train and bus operator Go-Ahead Group.

Go-Ahead said pre-tax profits rose 7.7% to £45m in the six months to 1 January.

Operating profit in its bus division rose to £36.9m from £34.3m a year ago, thanks to a 1.8% increase in like-for-like passenger numbers.

But the group said the outlook for rail was difficult to predict, given the economic uncertainty and "the rigidity and complexity of the franchise model".

It also admitted that its service suffered in some areas due to the snow before Christmas.

"Our bus operating profit is at record levels and is a strong indication of people leaving their cars at home and taking the bus," chief executive Keith Ludeman said.

Operating profit at its rail division rose to £22.1m from £19.9m in the same period the previous year.

But Mr Ludeman warned: "Rail remains challenging, and despite significant top line growth and good cost control, margins of 2-3%, which are not untypical for the sector, are not at the commercial level the industry needs in the long term."

Go-Ahead said it now expects its full-year operating profit across its rail and bus businesses to be about the same as last year's £101m, which is higher than previously forecast.

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