London drives Go-Ahead profits 43% higher

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Go-Ahead, the train and bus group, reported a 43 per cent jump in half-year profits, boosted by increased bus passenger demand in and around London.

The group, which makes about 60 per cent of its profits from its bus business, said: "Bus priority schemes and the London congestion charge are key drivers in these developments."

However, the company hit out at the Strategic Rail Authority over its loss of the Thames Trains franchise.The company also said that it was in "pole position" to win the new Integrated Kent Franchise that will be awarded by the SRA later this year. The franchise will take in the existing South Eastern Trains network and will incorporate the high-speed domestic services from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Four operators have been shortlisted for the newly created franchise, which will produce more than £350m a year in revenues. Go-Ahead has partnered with SNCF for the contract.

Martin Ballinger, the chief executive, said: "We think we're in pole position for this. Our colleagues in SNCF, they're extremely excited about it. They've got a lot of expertise in high-speed lines and this franchise does provide for very high-speed commuter services."

Go-Ahead complained bitterly about the loss of the Thames Trains franchise, which will shortly be passed to FirstGroup. The company said that, under its stewardship, this franchise had improved from one that received £30m a year in public subsidy to no subsidy. Its problems were down to poor rail and signalling, Go-Ahead said, which was down to Network Rail.

It added: "In its seven years of Go-Ahead operation, the Thames Trains franchise has yielded only a modest return (about £6m). By contrast, it has produced huge returns for the taxpayer, saving about £190m."