Revenue up at National Express
Rail disruption has helped National Express’ UK coach patronage increase in 2022, according to the company’s latest set of financial figures.
In its full year results for the year ending 31 December 2022, revenue increased to £2.81bn (2021: £2.17bn) at National Express.
It reported a group operating loss before tax of £209.9m (2021: £84.9m) during the 12 months. It says this loss was primarily as a result of a £261m non-cash impairment of goodwill in its Spanish operation ALSA driven by an increase in the discount rates rather than any changes in the underlying trading assumptions used to forecast future cashflows.
Revenue in its UK operations was up 32.8% to £528.3m during the year, with the recovery largely driven by its UK coach division. The division returned to Underlying Operating Profit in the second half to deliver a full year outturn of £25.6m (2021: Underlying Operating Loss of £22.6m). After separately disclosed items, the statutory operating profit was £18.1m, a year-on-year improvement of £64.5m.
National Express reports very strong growth in demand for its UK coach services after the near complete network shutdown in the first quarter of the year due to the Omicron strain of Covid-19. UK core coach revenue more than doubled, with airports reopening and strong demand for intercity travel. It has also benefited from the ongoing disruption on the national rail network. Its research shows that almost 10% of new customers using its scheduled network during the industrial action bought another ticket within a month to travel on a non-strike day.
Its bus operations have also seen a continuing recovery in demand, with commercial passenger journeys up 39% year-on-year.
The upgrading of its digital ticketing systems during the second half of the year has reduced fraud and improved the range of digital tickets it can offer. Over 80% of passengers now board with a digital ticket of some description, which allows the operator to leverage the resulting data to build future demand.
Its Transport Solutions business also delivered a strong uplift in revenue, albeit versus a relatively low base in 2021, benefiting from recovery in private hire and holiday demand as travel restrictions eased post-pandemic. Having merged with its scheduled coach business, both its business lines are now better placed to optimise scarce capacity in order to maximise customer demand.