National Express to selectively eye rail franchise opportunities

National Express Group said it would selectively consider rail franchise opportunities in a statement out today.

The rail, bus and coach operator reported increased revenue for 2011 so far across each of its businesses including it UK rail and coach business.

Its Interim Management Statement for the nine months ending September 30 said the group had continued the strong performance reported at the half year through the third quarter. Revenue for the period rose by 5pc more than the previous year.

The company operates coaches from Norwich and its East Anglia train franchise will end in February. Last month it was awarded to Dutch company Nederlandse Spoorwegen, operating as Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd. Abellio has been awarded a short-term 29-month contract.

National Express Group's interim statement said that its UK Rail business had grown 6pc so far this year, with increased Oyster card travel offsetting lower yields.

The report said that the company continued to make good progress implementing the European Framework for Quality Management in its c2c franchise which operates in central London and Essex.

'Following the recent clarification by the UK government on future franchise tendering, we will be seeking prequalification for the replacement c2c franchise due to operate from 2013, whilst selectively considering other franchise opportunities as these emerge,' the report said.

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The National Express Group's UK coach business saw its revenue grow 6pc in the period after a successful summer trading period which is its busiest part of the year.

The report said that overall profitability for the division continued to improve and it had also launched a programme to partially mitigate against the withdrawal of the UK government's concession subsidy from November this year including a senior and disabled persons coach card.

Dean Finch, group chief executive, said: 'We have continued the strong performance reported at the half year in the third quarter. We have delivered good revenue growth and further improvements in efficiency and we have clear plans to continue to improve revenue and profitability in the future'

It also reported that in North America its school bus business increased by 10pc over the period and in a successful bid season it added contracts for a net 600 new buses.

Its UK bus business increased by 2pc in the period.