A robust performance from Stagecoach's regional bus operations helped the transport group deliver better-than-expected annual profits.
The company, which is one of the UK's biggest bus and coach operators with around 8,000 vehicles and 2.5 million passengers every day, increased underlying profits to £218 million for the year to the end of April, up from £202.5 million a year earlier.
The Perth-based group, chaired by co-founder Sir Brian Souter, reported a rise in UK regional bus revenues of 3.3% in the year, while profits for the division were 1.4% higher at £165 million.
Its services cover cities including Sheffield and Newcastle.
Underlying sales in its UK rail arm, which includes South West Trains and East Midlands Trains, increased 5.9% over the same period, versus a year earlier. Profits jumped to £49.9 million from £27.1 million as a result of comparisons with a big loss at East Midlands Trains in the previous year.
Virgin Rail, in which it holds a 49% stake, increased revenues by 3.5% during the year but operating profits fell 40% to £12.8 million. The business serves the West Coast Main Line and will continue to run the franchise until at least 2017 after the Government's botched re-tendering saga.
Chief executive Martin Griffiths said: "We believe the public transport market has long-term fundamental strengths.’’