Stagecoach buoyed by British rail performance

Transport group Stagecoach said recent trade had been good, driven by strong growth at its rail businesses, and that it was hopeful of winning more rail franchises in Britain.

"Overall current trading remains good and we believe the prospects for the group remain positive," the company said in a statement on Thursday. "The overall profitability of the group has remained good."

Scotland-based Stagecoach said Virgin Rail, a joint venture in which it owns a 49 per cent stake, was "progressing its bid" for the new West Coast Trains rail franchise which was put up for tender by Britain's Department for Transport last month.

Like-for-like revenue at Stagecoach's UK rail business, which includes London commuter franchise South West Trains, grew 9.5 per cent in the 40 weeks to 5 February.

Virgin Rail Group achieved an 8.9 per cent jump in like-for-like revenue in the same period.

Sales at Stagecoach's British bus unit climbed three per cent, while its North American coaches operation posted a 13.3 per cent leap in the nine months to the end of January.

Rival British transport firm National Express Group on Wednesday said full-year profit rose on strong performance at its US school bus and UK coach divisions, and said it was confident about growth in 2012.