North American, Spanish arms boost National Express

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NATIONAL Express, the transport group that last week recruited former ScotRail boss Mary Grant as part of its attempt to capture more of the UK rail market, has hailed success in North America and Spain for an acceleration in its half-year sales.

In a trading update ahead of its interim results, the bus and train operator said that turnover is up 7 per cent year-on-year.

Revenues in North America, where it runs yellow school bus services, were up 19 per cent on last year. National Express also said it had secured “significant” price increases on renewed contracts in the United States.

The group said that its North American transit business, which makes $75 million (£49.2m) a year in revenues, has a bid success rate of 30 per cent and a bid pipeline worth $200m.

In Spain, the company said demand had been affected by wider austerity, but that “there are signs that the rate of decline is diminishing”. First-half revenues in Spain rose 3 per cent.

Sales rose 30 per cent in Morocco, where the group is adding Tangiers to existing coach operations in Agadir and Marrakesh.

The company’s UK rail business, which runs the c2c commuter line between London and Essex, continued to perform well, while its British bus business recovered from a slow first quarter to record a 3 per cent rise in underlying sales, it said.

National Express plans to bid for the Essex Thameside rail contract this year and has been shortlisted for the Crossrail bid process expected to start later this year, with the winner to be announced at the end of 2014. The FTSE 250 stock closed up 2.7p at 231.7p.