Stagecoach earnings down 92% as pandemic hammers demand

Transport giant Stagecoach has revealed half-year profits crashed 92% to £5.4 million as slumping demand for public transport hammered revenues.

The bus group saw revenues nearly halve to £454.6 million in the six months to October 31, against £800.2 million a year earlier.

Coronavirus lockdowns and ongoing restrictions have left regional bus commercial sales at around 54% of levels seen last year, which the group said was a step back, having recovered to almost 60% at one stage.

Britons have switched to travel by car during the crisis, with Stagecoach saying car use is “significantly” ahead of public transport, at up to 90% of levels seen a year earlier in October despite tightening restrictions.

But the group said it had still seen a “significant recovery” in passenger demand since May, even with the impact of the second lockdown across England.

It also put faith in support from the Government “in pursuing our shared objective to drive modal shift from car to public transport”.

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group chief executive, said: “While the situation remains fluid, we have made progress in the restoration of our networks to close to pre-Covid levels and in growing passenger volumes safely.”

He added: “We are working closely with our government and sector partners on a new framework to ensure the country’s public transport networks adapt to new working and travel patterns, are fit for the post-Covid world and meet the continuing needs of our customers and communities.”

Half-year results showed interim regional bus earnings slumped 84% to £9.1 million, helped by Government support to keep essential services running through the pandemic.

But the London bus business put in a resilient performance, with earnings rising to £9.2 million from £5.1 million a year earlier.

The firm said London bus contract payments are now at normal levels with full service restored, but it said full-year profits are set to be “broadly consistent” with the previous year.

In the rail arm, Stagecoach said the Sheffield Supertram business is receiving Government payments to provide essential tram services as the group continues to unwind its former train operating companies.

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