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Trainline rebounds to profit, but cautions over risk from lengthy rail strikes

Online rail ticketing business Trainline has returned to profit in its first half as passenger demand recovered from the pandemic but cautioned that lengthy strike action may impact its full-year figures.

The group posted pre-tax profits of £13.6 million for the six months to August 31 against losses of £10.3 million a year ago as UK passenger numbers have rebounded to 85% of levels seen before the pandemic struck and with soaring numbers of visitors from the US cashing in on the stronger dollar.

It said it has not yet seen signs of a hit to demand from the recent wave of train worker strikes or the cost-of-living crisis.

But the group’s interim report showed it cautioning over the possible risk to its future results in the event of prolonged industrial action – an alert that comes ahead of a fresh wave of rail strikes starting on Saturday.

Chief executive Jody Ford told the PA news agency: “The number of strikes will be a determinant on how the year plays out.”

He called on the Government and rail unions to reach a swift agreement.

He said: “The earlier that these (strikes) could be brought to a conclusion for everybody is certainly better – most importantly for rail customers, but also for the whole rail industry.

“That’s my hope that the parties can work through this and ultimately conclude on something that works for consumers.”

The group said it expects rail travel to remain resilient in the face of the cost crisis, with demand remaining strong since the half-year, despite soaring cost pressures on households.

Trainline said: “The cost-of-living crisis is expected to impact consumer-facing businesses across Europe, with pressure on discretionary spend.

“However, our research suggests that transport could perform better than other sectors and that rail could prove more resilient than other modes of travel, in part given it is experiencing lower rates of inflation.”

Shares in the group fell 4%, despite the profit rebound.

Analysts at Numis said: “Trainline has reported a strong and encouraging set of interim results, despite the impact from strikes in the first half.”