National Express beats previous guidance as passengers get back on buses

National Express surprised investors on Thursday as it revealed it has done slightly better than previous guidance in recent months.

The company’s regional buses in Dundee and the West Midlands are carrying well over half of last year’s passenger numbers, it said.

“Both our UK bus businesses have continued to see good passenger growth in recent weeks,” National Express said in a statement.

The West Midlands routes are running 103% of last year’s service and carrying 58% of the passengers, while in Dundee 92% of buses are running with 61% of last year’s passenger levels.

Its UK coach services are getting continued high demand, and the company is adding more where possible.

National Express, which also runs businesses in Spain, North Africa and the US, had originally expected revenue to reach around 50% of pre-Covid levels until the end of August, but it has fared better, the company said.

“We traded slightly above our previously guided base case as we closely manage customer relationships, contract details and service requirements throughout the pandemic,” it said in a statement.

Its business that operates in Spain, Morocco and Switzerland reached 66% of last year’s revenues, while winning a 185 million euro (£170 million) seven-year contract to run buses in Lisbon, Portugal.

In North America, 65% of its school bus routes are operating services, and its transit and shuttle businesses are collecting between 65% and 80% of pre-Covid revenue.

Shares rose 4% on the news on Thursday morning.

Chief executive Chris Davies said: “We are grateful to our customers and the public authorities who have recognised the essential role our services play in maintaining the ability of people to get to work and to keep the economy functioning, even during such challenging times.

“We are encouraged to see continued passenger growth across the group as our services provide safe and reliable services to those choosing to travel.

“We remain resolutely optimistic about the longer term opportunities for the group.”