Rail firms stay on track as commuters hop on

The high cost of filling up at the pump is continuing to drive business for Stagecoach and National Express, with the transport firms seeing growth as commuters hang up their car keys.

National Express, whose c2c service runs between London and Essex, said revenues at its rail business rose by 6 per cent in the nine months to the end of September. Stagecoach, which runs the South West Trains service, notched up 8.7 per centlike -for -like growth in revenues in the 24 weeks to mid-October. Revenues at itsVirgin Rail joint venture grew by 9.7 per cent.

In the coach business, National Express said the busy summer trading period had gone well, as it drew steam from its £9 nationwide travel offer. As a result, ticket sales across its core UK coach network were up by 6 per cent over the nine-month period.

Both companies saw strong growth in their international arms. In Spain, strength in National Express's coach division drove transport revenues up by 7 per cent. Boosted by the back to school rush, its North American school bus business saw revenues jump up by over 10 per cent.

For Stagecoach, its Megabus budget business, which links over 70 locations across the US and Canada, proved a draw for North American customers, with revenues in the region rising by 12 per cent over the five months to the end of September.