Rising fuel bill hits Go-Ahead profits

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Chris Moyes, the chief executive of the Newcastle-based bus and train operator, said he was looking at a range of methods to curb its escalating fuel bill, including making sure the tyres of its vehicles were correctly inflated.

But he said bus manufacturers had a big role to play by improving the design of their vehicles to make them lighter. He said: "We used to get eight miles to the gallon but now it is down to five or six miles. I would like to get back to eight.

Mr Moyes was speaking as Go-Ahead reported an 11 per cent fall in underlying pre-tax profits to £43.6m after a £4.7m increase in its first-half fuel bill. Operating profits from its bus division, which has 20 per cent of the London market and about 10 per cent nationwide, fell £5.8m to £23m for the six months to the end of December, while the rail division increased profits 6 per cent to £19.6m.

Go-Ahead was also hit by the impact from the London bombings in July which affected passenger numbers on its Southern and Thameslink rail franchises, although Mr Moyes said traffic levels had recovered and were growing by about 5 per cent year-on-year.

Go-Ahead will lose the Thameslink franchise in April but gain the new Integrated Kent franchise, and Mr Moyes said the group was keen to add one more rail business. It intends to bid for both the new West Midlands and East Midlands franchises and the replacement Silverlink franchise.