Operator blames the impact of the pandemic for spiralling losses despite lockdown only coming into force in the last days of the accounting year


Abellio has blamed the early phases of the coronavirus pandemic for growing losses at the ScotRail franchise.

The operator had previously reported a pre-tax loss of £11.0m in the 15 months to March 31, 2019. Now the Dutch-owned company has reported that pre-tax losses had widened to £54.5m in the year to March 31, 2020, according to new accounts filed with Companies House.

Abellio claimed Covid-19 had had a “significant impact” on the financial performance of the company, despite the first UK national lockdown being announced just days before the end of the reporting period.

The operator reported revenues fell to £917.0m, compared to £989.6m in the 15-month reporting period for 2019. Passenger income fell to £360.4m (2019: £445.3m) while subsidies increased to £526.4m (2019: £482.8m).

The operating loss for the current year is primarily as a result of the impairment of a cash generating unit resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic

“Following a period of delivering on several key priorities and meeting many of our key performance metrics, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the financial results,” claimed the company. “The operating loss for the current year is primarily as a result of the impairment of a cash generating unit resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In response to the pandemic, an Emergency Measures Agreement was entered into with the Scottish Government, and while this insulated the company as far as reasonable from the severe financial impacts of the pandemic, the expected cashflows across the remainder of the franchise term have been severely impacted.”

The Scottish Government announced in December 2019 that it would not continue with the current franchise beyond March 31, 2022. Last month, it announced the franchise will be run by an arm’s length company it owns and controls.

Abellio says the Scottish Government’s decision to end the franchise “was disappointing and created significant uncertainty for the company” but this was superseded toward the end of the reporting period by the introduction of the first Covid national lockdown.

“As with many organisations across the world, Covid-19 is the single biggest factor impacting the future of the business,” said the company. “As a result of government intervention telling people not to travel, there was a significant reduction in passengers travelling.”

Abellio reveals that patronage fell by 95% when compared to the previous year and the company says it is grateful for Scottish Government support to ensure services could continue to operate “throughout a period of significant uncertainty”.

This article appears alongside further coverage in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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