Go-Ahead Group publishes half year results

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Contracts in London run on a gross cost basis without exposure to changes in passenger demand. RICHARD SHARMAN

Half year results show the impact of the pandemic, but London and the International bus divisions performing well

The Go-Ahead Group has published its financial results for the six months to 2 January 2021. The Group said that its three priorities remain unchanged through the pandemic: to safeguard the health and well-being of its colleagues and customers; to play its role in society; and to protect its business.

The firm reported a ‘resilient performance against a challenging backdrop’ with the impact of Covid-19 on passenger revenue mitigated by the Government’s support for maintaining bus services.
The Group reported that regional bus performance in the first half of the year reflects the continued impact of Covid-19 on travel patterns. Passenger volumes were down by 52.9% in the first half, reflecting the varying restrictions throughout the period. Revenue fell less materially, by 8.2%, reflecting the financial support provided by CBSSG.

At the start of the second half of the year, when a third national lockdown was introduced, passenger journeys reduced to current levels of around 20% of typical journeys. Alongside CBSSG, the Group utilised the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to support a small number of vulnerable colleagues not working during the period.

The Group’s London & International bus division, which includes operations in London, Singapore and Ireland, performed well in the first half of the year, thanks to contracts which which run on a gross cost basis without exposure to changes in passenger demand.

The Group said that due to current uncertainties, it remains unable to provide meaningful full year financial predictions for its regional bus divisions, but expects this division to make a positive contribution in the year, reflecting first half profits and continued intra-group property rental income in the second half. The London & International bus division is expected to deliver a full year operating result ahead of previous expectations.

David Brown, Group Chief Executive, commented: “As we continue to deal with the challenges of the pandemic, my thoughts are with those impacted by Covid-19, particularly the families and friends of colleagues who have lost their lives. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their hard work in ensuring people can travel safely to work, hospitals, schools and make other essential journeys. They have all played a key role keeping buses and trains running throughout this crisis.

“As the economy opens throughout the spring, we expect to see passengers return, with evidence of pent up demand for leisure journeys, including high levels of staycations. Prior to the second lockdown, our regional bus services were up to 60% cent of normal passenger journeys, and while demand patterns across the day may be different, we anticipate a desire to return to city centres for work and leisure.

“Public transport plays a vital role in the economic recovery by providing access to jobs and education. It is also integral to the Government’s Net Zero ambitions, to improving air quality, and to improving public health, especially in combination with active travel. We expect to see this reflected in the forthcoming National Bus Strategy.

“Private operators are uniquely placed to deliver the passenger growth, innovation and efficiency that customers, communities and the Government want to see as we emerge from the pandemic. The agility and collaboration demonstrated throughout the past 12 months is further evidence of the vital role we play in our communities.”