North East Go-Ahead Group Hails Recovering Passenger Numbers.
The Newcastle bus and rail group said passenger numbers have reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic. North East transport giant Go-Ahead has hailed recovering passenger numbers, saying figures have reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic as lockdown restrictions lift.
The Newcastle-headquartered group said its regional bus services are now carrying around 65% to 70% of pre-Covid passenger levels, peaking at more than 80% in some areas, having crashed to just a fifth of normal numbers in March. It said pent-up demand is driving the recovery, as people head back to high streets and hospitality thanks to the reopening of sectors shut during the lockdown.
Go-Ahead, which also runs the Govia Thameslink and Southeastern rail services, said its overall outlook for the full year has improved, with its London and international bus business set for a better-than-expected performance.
Within its bus division, it said it had also seen lower than expected levels of sickness and better than expected colleague retention levels in London.
Go-Ahead’s outgoing chief executive David Brown said: “After more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions limiting travel, it is great to see our buses and trains carrying more passengers as these restrictions start to ease and people enjoy the benefits of communities and businesses reopening.
“There are more people using our services today than at any point over the pandemic and we are ready to safely welcome more people back to our buses and trains. As we emerge from the pandemic, public transport has a huge role to play in economic recovery and an equally important role in tackling climate change as we encourage more people on to our services and away from private cars.”
The group said its reliance on emergency Government coronavirus support is reducing and it is working with the Department for Transport on a path to a pure commercial model as demand recovers.
Its Southeastern and GTR rail contracts come to an end later this year, but the group also runs services internationally.
The board said it is continuing to work towards paying out a dividend “at an appropriate level” this calendar year.
Go-Ahead said there is no change to break-even expectations for the rail division. It added: “Our priority over the coming months is helping passengers return to our services and welcoming new passengers who may be looking for a greener, value-for-money travel choice. Not only is this vital for our business, but it is essential in supporting economic recovery and the achievement of the Government’s ambitious climate change targets.”
At the end of last month, the group announced it had launched a search for a new chief executive after Mr Brown announced his plan to retire as CEO at the end of the year, following a decade at the helm.