Beast from the East hits Stagecoach revenues

The heavy snowstorms and severe cold branded the Beast from the East have dealt a blow to revenues at Stagecoach, the Perth-based train and bus operator.

A Stagecoach bus in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean

Sir Brian Souter’s group said yesterday that like-for-like revenue at the UK regional bus arm fell 2.5 per cent for the most recent four-week period compared with the same period of 2017 following the recent widespread weather disruption.

The trading update from Stagecoach, which also runs the East Coast and West Coast mainlines via partnerships, said that in the 44 weeks ended 3 March, excluding the impact of the bad weather, regional bus revenues fell 0.1 per cent.

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Despite the financial hit, the transport group said it remained on track for annual earnings targets, with revenues at UK rail rising 3.2 per cent (excluding South West Trains) and up 2.8 per cent at Virgin Rail for the 44-week period.

Stagecoach, which has come under fire for its handling of the East Coast Mainline, said it had submitted a bid for the South Eastern franchise and was still locked in talks with the Department of Transport over new contract terms for the Virgin Trains East Coast business.

It said bids for the East Midlands and West Coast Partnership franchises were progressing.

The group’s London bus operation saw revenues slide 4.3 per cent for the 44 weeks. Stagecoach said: “The reported revenue decrease for the UK Bus (London) Division is in line with our expectation and reflects the impact of contracts lost in the prior year.

“We remain satisfied by our performance on current year tenders for Transport for London contracts.”

Its US business also stuttered, with heavy snow and mileages changes at causing revenues to fall 4.6 per cent for North America and 0.6 per cent for the whole division over the same period.

Stagecoach said: “The recent revenue trends in North America are lower than growth seen in the first half of the year, reflecting the timing of contract work during the year and more severe weather than our forecasts anticipated over the winter months.”

Against this backdrop, shares in the group have fallen 22 per cent since the start of the year. Yesterday they closed down a further 1.22 per cent, or 1.6p, at 129.6p.

Liberum analyst Gerald Khoo saying in a note there were “tentative signs of stabilisation” at the company.