National Express feels loss of pensioners' subsidy

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The Government's decision to axe half-price coach fares for the over-sixties saw 1 million fewer pensioners travel with National Express last year, as the transport group's annual pre-tax profit fell 9 per cent to £164.1m.

One of George Osborne's austerity measures saw the Government withdraw a £16m subsidy that gave older people and disabled passengers discounted fares. The Chancellor's move, said the company's chief executive, Dean Finch, "made 2012 one of the most difficult years in National Express Coach's 40-year history".

Operating profits at its coach business fell by £14m to £20.6m last year, and Britain's biggest coach operator admitted: "We reduced some services that were made unprofitable by the concession removal."

Elsewhere, National Express's loss of the East Anglia rail franchise saw operating profit at its rail division crash by 38 per cent to £26.7m. The company now owns only one UK rail franchise, c2c into Fenchurch Street station.

National Express said it "wasted significant investment" in putting together franchise bids, running up a bill of £16.3m before the Government put the process on hold in the wake of its bungled tendering of the West Coast main line.