TRANSPORT group National Express said it finished the year “in excellent shape” – with sales growing across all its divisions.
The group expects to report revenue growth at its rail, coach and bus divisions in 2011 as higher petrol prices forced people from their cars onto public transport.
National Express said it was on track to meet full-year profit expectations as rail revenues are expected to have grown 6% this year, bus revenues are forecast to be 4% higher and coach revenues should be ahead by 5%.
The update came as the Association of Train Operating Companies revealed prices would increase at an average of 5.9% this January, following an average 6.2% increase at the start of this year.
Elsewhere, National Express came under pressure from a Competition Commission report calling for reforms to make it easier for new entrants to gain a foothold in the bus and coach sector.
The Commission outlined a number of reforms, including ensuring new entrants and competing operators can access bus stations managed by other operators on fair terms.
But Dave Finch, National Express chief executive, said: “National Express is finishing 2011 in excellent shape.”
National Express said profit margins in its bus division, which operates in the West Midlands and Dundee, have returned to above average levels for the industry, while passenger numbers returned to growth in the West Midlands. The group also added 250 new buses to its new fleet.
The coach division saw revenues driven by an increase in airport, long-haul and London services.
Shares in National Express closed up by 0.5p at 216.8p as investors warmed to the group’s forecasts for the full-year – despite the Competition Commission report into the bus market.
National Express, which runs the c2c and East Anglia rail services between London and Essex, will increase train fares this January.
Regulated fares, which include season tickets, had been due to rise by an average of 8% in January – 3% above July’s RPI inflation figure – but Chancellor George Osborne lowered this to July’s RPI plus 1%.
National Express, which also operates in Morocco, Spain and the US, is forecast to report a 12% rise in pre-tax profits to £180.5m for 2011 on revenues 3% higher at £2.2bn. It publishes its results in March.