Stagecoach in lift from rail ticket sales

Stagecoach Group PLC said ticket sales across its bus and rail operations rose in the first half of its financial year and that it expects to meet its profit expectations for the full-year.

Like-for-like revenue at Stagecoach's UK rail business, which includes London commuter franchise South West Trains, grew 8.7 per cent in the 24 weeks to 16 October, the company said in a trading update.

Virgin Rail Group, a joint venture in which Stagecoach owns a 49 per cent stake, achieved a 9.7 percent jump in like-for-like revenue in the same period.

Britain's Department for Transport last week granted Virgin Rail a six month extension to its contract to run the West Coast rail link between London and cities in northern England and Scotland.

Sales at Stagecoach's bus unit climbed 2.2 per cent, while its North American coaches operation posted a 12 percent leap in like-for-like revenue in the five months to 30 September.

In October, Stagecoach and rival UK operator, Go-Ahead , lost out to a Dutch group on a potentially lucrative contract to run Britain's Greater Anglia rail franchise.

Go-Ahead last week said new passengers looking to avoid the high cost of running cars had helped boost first-quarter trading .

Scotland-based Stagecoach is expected to report pretax profit of £89.3m in the six months to 31 October, according to a consensus supplied by the company.

The company, which transports around 2.5m passengers on its 8,400 buses everyday in the UK, said current trading remained good and added that its outlook remained positive.