National Express back on track

BELEAGUERED bus and rail operator National Express has claimed to be back on track – reporting a stable fourth quarter with profits set to be in line with forecasts.

The company said underlying revenues at its UK bus division had been boosted by 4 per cent thanks to a shake-up in fares and new marketing drives.

National Express also confirmed that it was on target to slash costs by £50m this year.

The year's pre-tax profits are forecast at £114m – compared to the £202m the year before.

National Express completed a £360m rights issue last week following a boardroom tussle between the Spanish Cosmen family and other elements of the board.

The British firm has also fought off takeover bids from rivals Stagecoach and FirstGroup.

Meanwhile Dean Finch, currently chief at rail maintenance firm Tube Lines, has been appointed as chief executive starting in the spring.

Executive chairman John Devaney said: "This has been a challenging year for National Express but, as it draws to a close, I am pleased that we have tackled and resolved our significant issues.

“We have eliminated the loss-making elements of our rail business and restored our balance sheet through a well supported rights issue.”

The group was forced to give up its East Coast Mail Line franchise earlier this year after running into financial problems.