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First sees revenue growth, but profits fall

FirstGroup CEO Moir Lockhead

Figures for First GB Railfreight and the group’s open access operator Hull Trains were not listed separately in FirstGroup’s preliminary results.

Chief executive Sir Moir Lockhead said: ‘The group has delivered a resilient performance in line with management expectations against the backdrop of a challenging trading environment and significantly higher hedged fuel costs which increased by approximately £90m during the year. He added: ‘Looking ahead we

by Katie Silvester

FirstGroup’s rail division saw growth in revenue, but a small drop in profits for the year ending 31 March. The transport giant said its results were ‘ahead of expectations’, with revenue of £2,188m (2009: £2,122m) and profit of £93m (2009: £94m).

Operating profit across the rail division was £74m. First TransPennine Express

performed best for the division, with passenger revenues up 5.6 per cent. The Toc saw its best ever punctuality and benefited from

being able to offer more seats from Manchester airport. It puts its revenue growth down to successful marketing campaigns, such as Kids Go Free. First ScotRail saw revenue growth of 3.2 per cent, First Great Western 1.3 per cent and First Capital Connect 2.6 per cent. First Capital Connect ran into difficulties during the year when an industrial dispute with drivers led to cancelled services and with rolling stock failures occurring during the severe winter weather.

anticipate the new financial year will remain challenging.’ l Across all Britain’s franchised rail operators, profits rose slightly, but margins fell in the year ending 31 December 2008 to 30 June 2009, according to analysis by transport consultants TAS. Turnover was 6.6 per cent higher than the previous year at £8,511m and operating profits totalled £328.8m (last year: £316.6m on £7,983m). The operating margin was 3.9 per cent, compared to four per cent the previous year. But there were marked

differences between the sectors. Regional operators saw profits up 26 per cent and intercity operators saw profits increase by 23 per cent. At the other end of the scale, commuter operators saw profits fall by 27 per cent.

l For more on First Capital Connect, see Neal Lawson interview, pages 18-21

Freightliner among contenders to buy GBRF

First GB Railfreight has received enquiries from several potential bidders since its parent company FirstGroup began gauging market interest in its sale. Although interested parties

are reluctant to go on the record at this stage, it is understood that Freightliner, SNCF and Eurotunnel are interested in buying the freight operator, which is the UK’s third biggest.

A source told Rail Professional

that a management buyout could also be a possibility. FirstGroup acquired GB

Railfreight when it bought GB Railways in 2004. GB Railways ran the Anglia franchise before National Express, and owned some operations abroad, including one in Australia. It was the passenger

operations that FirstGroup was

interested in when it bought the group. GB Railfreight carries coal

for British Energy and EDF, among others, as well as running intermodal services out of Felixstowe. The company also transports infrastructure for Network Rail and Transport for London, as well as carrying aggregates for British Gypsum and Lafarge.

News in brief

HS2 consultants

shortlist to be drawn up

Up to 10 consultants are expected to be shortlisted to begin work on the next stage of High Speed Two, the planned high-speed line which will run north out of London, via the Midlands. The consultancy that wins the contract will be assessing costs and risks, as well as the environmental and social impact of the project, between July 2010 and November 2011.

Net tenders due

The pre-qualified bidders to build Net Phase Two – Nottingham’s tram extension – submitted their tenders at the end of May. The bidders are both consortia: Arrow Connect (Bombardier, VolkerRail, Transdev, Nottingham City Transport and CDC Group) and Tramlink Nottingham (Alstom, Keolis, Trent Barton, InfraVia and Meridiam).

New ticketing website

A new rail ticketing website, www.mytrainticket.co.uk, has been launched. The website, which aims to offer rail passengers the right balance between price and ticket flexibility, will give customers one Airmile for every £10 spent.

Paisley Corridor win for Invensys

Invensys Rail has been awarded a £48m contract by Network Rail for the Paisley Corridor project in Scotland. The line will get enhanced and renewed signalling equipment at Shields and Paisley, as well as triple tracking.

Thetrainline.com signs mobile deal

Masabi, the developer of mobile ticketing software has signed a deal with Thetrainline.com for an m-ticketing purchase and delivery system. Passengers will be able to buy and display rail tickets direct from their mobile phones for any route, without having to visit ticket offices or ticket machines.

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