World Cup to kickstart Arriva

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The Independent Online

Arriva, the bus and rail company, is looking to this summer's World Cup in Germany to help drive its expansion into Europe.

Bob Davies, the outgoing chief executive of the Sunderland-based group, said Arriva's mainland European division was likely to overtake its UK bus business as the company's biggest revenue earner this year and double in size over the next four to five years.

"The World Cup is an opportunity to raise our profile further in Germany. When people see our logo on the side of buses, it will reinforce that we are one of Europe's biggest transport operators."

He was speaking as Arriva reported broadly flat operating profits for 2005, of £123m, despite the loss of its Northern Trains franchise and a £10m increase in fuel costs. Mr Davies said fuel costs would rise a further £20m across the group this year - and would be offset by higher fares in its bus operations outside London.

Mainland Europe accounted for £621m of Arriva's £1.6bn turnover last year and £48m of operating profits. Revenues from Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia are expected to grow rapidly as state-run rail and bus services are increasingly put out to private tender.

The group has just one UK train franchise - Arriva Trains Wales - but it has pre-qualified to bid for South West Trains, and expects to receive a formal invitation to tender this month.