Stagecoach shares lift as Government payments boost bus services

Bus operator Stagecoach said it has been buoyed by Government plans to ratchet up public transport services following the coronavirus lockdown.

The company said its local bus operations are running at around 17% of levels for the same period in previous years.

However, it said the Government has confirmed a £254 million “bus, tram and light rail restart programme”, which will provide operators outside London with payments for increased level of services, as social distancing impacts customer numbers.

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of the operator, said: “It will be some time before demand for our public transport services returns to pre-Covid levels and we are planning for a number of scenarios.”

Stagecoach said capacity on services has been “significantly reduced” as a result of social distancing, but it is ready to restore operations to near pre-coronavirus levels, although transitional arrangements are needed to help operators provide comprehensive services.

It came as the company told investors it has significantly increased its available liquidity to deal with the impact of the virus.

The company said it has more than £800 million available in cash or committed bank facilities.

Mr Griffiths said: “We see a lasting effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel patterns with an acceleration in trends of increased working from home, shopping from home, telemedicine and home education.

“At the same time, we see positive drivers for our business from a renewed societal focus on health, wellbeing and the environment.

“Public transport can play a major role in a cleaner, greener and more resilient economy and society, tackling climate change with strong Government action to reduce car use.”

Shares in the company moved 5.9% higher to 70.9p in early trading on Thursday.

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