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Business & Economy

Stagecoach puts rail plans into sidings to focus on bus operations

A transport operator running North East bus services has walked away from new rail franchise bids after high-profile Government disqualifications.

Stagecoach Group says it will instead focus on driving growth in its “core high-quality bus and coach operations.”

Confirmation of the rail reversal marks the end of a turbulent period for Stagecoach after it was previously disqualified from re-bidding for the East Midlands rail franchise by the Government over pension issues.

It was also barred from bidding for the South Eastern and West Coast Partnership franchises and saw its joint venture with Virgin on the East Coast Mainline returned to public ownership under the London North Eastern Railway banner.

Instead, the business, which runs bus services across Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Teesside, says it will put its attention on road operations, revealing it has “repositioned to drive long-term profit growth” from its UK bus business.

Highlighting the successful sale of its North America division and an £80 million-plus investment in new vehicles to support the UK’s air quality strategy, chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “I am pleased to report good financial results as we reposition the business.

“We continue to focus on driving growth at our core high-quality bus and coach operations in the UK, but we have no intention to bid for new UK rail franchises on the current risk profile offered by the Department for Transport.

“We have a critical role to play in tackling climate change and delivering cleaner air for our communities by enabling the switch of more journeys from car to public transport.

“As well as our significant investments in newer vehicle technologies, including hybrid and electric vehicles, new policy initiatives such as ‘mobility credits’ can help governments meet their ambitious targets.

“Our priority is to provide safe, high-quality, value travel where every customer matters.”

Mr Griffiths was speaking as the company revealed its preliminary results for the year to April 27, which showed net debt had fallen from £395.8 million to £253.3 million.

Pre-tax profit from continuing operations was up from £128.3 million to £132.9 million.