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National Express coach passenger numbers just 8% of normal levels

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National Express has said its coach network in the UK is still only carrying a fraction of the passengers it hosted before the pandemic, even as the country starts to emerge from the depths of lockdown.

The business said its coaches are carrying 8% of passengers that they were in 2019.

Revenue was up by around half in April, although this is compared to this time last year during the first lockdown.

Instead, across the first four months of this year revenue was around 16% below where it was last year as the start of 2020 was unaffected by Covid-19.

Yet operating profit is ahead of last year. This is because while passenger numbers are low, the company has also been able to slash costs.

For instance, because National Express is only carrying 8% of normal passenger numbers, it can run just 13% of its normal coaches – meaning 85% of seats are filled.

Chief executive Ignacio Garat said: “I am pleased to see the continued improving performance trajectory across our business in the first four months of 2021 despite the ongoing lockdown restrictions. It is very encouraging to see the positive impact on profit delivery of the management actions taken last year.”

The company’s UK bus routes are carrying around 60% of their pre-Covid passengers and running a full service, propped up by Government support.

In Spanish cities there is a full service with two-thirds of normal passenger levels.

In Morocco, where the company has recently expanded in Rabat and Casablanca, passenger numbers are up 60% compared to before Covid.

In the US, National Express is running services on around 90% of its school bus routes.

Mr Garat added: “I remain grateful for the tireless work and commitment of our colleagues, and for the ongoing support we continue to receive from both customers and authorities, once again demonstrating the strength of the relationships we have built over the years.

“Whilst we remain focused on managing what we can control, we remain confident that as restrictions across the world are lifted we will see a strong recovery in demand for our services.”