UK bus business is in ‘unprecedented territory’

 

A First bus in Sheffield

 

Patronage has continued to grow strongly at FirstGroup’s UK bus division, despite some of its companies raising fares in line with inflation, following large price cuts the previous year.

The bus business has now achieved 19 consecutive months of patronage growth, which finance director Chris Surch said was “unprecedented in First’s history”.

The fare increases mean First is now starting to benefit financially from the additional customers being carried. During the last three months of 2014, patronage rose 1.4% and revenue 2.7%. The growth was driven by increases in commercial passenger numbers which rose 2.8% while concessionary patronage fell.

Surch said that was no reason why patronage growth should not continue as the group returned to making fare increases across its companies. However, he stressed that the company is in “unprecedented territory” following the major changes made to restructure fares and improve service quality.

“When you compare growth numbers with some of our competitors, they are obviously very favourable,” he said…“[We] still have a way to go to continue to improve. So we’re continuing to invest in the new buses and so on, so there is no reason why it shouldn’t continue for a good while yet, but I do emphasise we are in unprecedented territory.”

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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