* FirstGroup operating profits fell 6% to £428.5m in year to March 31, 2012

* UK bus operating profits drop by 10%. North and Scotland worst affected

* Tim O’Toole appoints former TfL colleague to new UK bus enforcer role

* Green sprouts of bus growth are emerging in some areas, such as Bristol

* Like-for-like passenger revenue across UK rail business has risen by 8%


FirstGroup’s inability to get its UK bus business out of first gear contributed to a 6.2% fall in operating profits across the group, according to financial results published last week for the year to March 31, 2012.

Although it accounted for just 17.3% of the transatlantic group’s £6.7bn annual turnover, the UK bus business was responsible for more than half (£14.4m) of the £28.2m drop in group profits.

In North America, a £21.2m fall in operating profits at the First Student yellow school bus business was offset by a £10.4m increase at the group’s Greyhound express coach operation.

Group chief executive Tim O’Toole said that the group’s UK bus business had been held back by challenging trading conditions in Scotland and the North of England, where like-for-like revenue growth was just 0.6%. The rest of the business saw much stronger revenue growth of 3.3%.

O’Toole said there were signs that work led by UK bus managing director Giles Fearnley over the past year were starting to pay off. In Bristol, for example, increased frequencies on core routes have helped to deliver revenue growth of 5%.

O’Toole has appointed Jeroen Weimar, a former colleague from his days at Transport for London, to the new post of chief operating officer at the UK bus business. Weimar joins from Serco where he was managing director of the firm’s UK transport business.

Like-for-like rail passenger revenue was up by 8.4%, helping profits rise by 1.7% to £110.5m.


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