Rail passenger revenue growth at transport operator the First Group slowed to just over four per cent to September last year, even as the firm reported a near 14 per cent uplift in revenue.
First, which operates rail and bus services, said the slump in like-for-like passenger growth reflected "significant infrastructure challenges which resulted in disappointing operating performance for passengers towards the end of 2018".
First, which operates the Great Western Railway, South Western Railway (SWR) and TransPennine Express franchises, also cited SWR strike action as a cause of reduced services and significant disruption.
However, the company also announced this morning that it had sold its Manchester bus depot to rival firm the Go-Ahead Group for over £11m.
First Group chief executive Matthew Gregory said: "Our overall trading performance in the period was in line with our expectations; in particular last summer’s strong bid season in First Student, our largest division, together with further momentum in First Bus, support our unchanged outlook for the full year. Recognising that overall conditions in our markets remain uncertain, and poor weather retains the potential to affect our performance, we are getting on with delivering plans that will improve services for customers and unlock the inherent value within the group."
SWR has been hit by strikes by workers at the RMT rail union who have been protesting over the role of the guard on its trains. Last year, the union staged a series of 24-hour strikes that hit the SWR routes at the weekends.
However, the union said yesterday that it has suspended its next planned wave of industrial action on Friday following "substantial progress" in talks.