Arriva yesterday became the latest transport group to report rising profits - hailing its bus routes in Telford as a particular success story.
The Sunderland- based company - which runs bus operations into Birmingham from Tamworth, Burton-upon-Trent, Lichfield, Sutton Coldfield and Kingstanding - reported a 15 per cent increase in group pretax profits before goodwill and one-off items to £116.3 million in the year to December 31.
Operating profits in Arriva's bus operations rose by nine per cent to £62.6 million, buoyed by successful projects carried out in partnership with local authorities.
Telford was singled out as an example of this process with Arriva buses seeing double digit growth in operating profit for several years. Last year the 481 route between Telford and Stafford was named the fastest growing bus route outside of London.
Arriva has also signed an exclusive deal with PayPoint to sell bus tickets through the latter's national network of cash payment terminals in more than 11,000 newsagents and other retail outlets.
Figures were also bolstered by the group's rail division which saw operating profits surge by 31 per cent to £31.5 million.
Arriva, whose Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) service runs to Birmingham New Street, said it had seen the growth in passengers and revenues being experienced across the railways, with turnover up to £509 million from £433.3 million last time.
Last month, National Express said its trains division had increased profits by 76 per cent on the back of higher passenger numbers.
The group said ATW was performing in line with expectations while Arriva Trains Northern, which it was responsible for running until December, had achieved the highest punctuality and reliability since privatisation in 1997.
Arriva, which has been expanding its international operations, said the division had increased operating profits by nearly 32 per cent to £32.7 million.
Acquisitions during the year contributed £4 million, while operating profits from existing activities rose 16 per cent. Arriva is the only UK transport player with significant operations in Europe which was the fastest growing business in the group, with turnover doubling in the last three years.
Chief executive Bob Davies said the European market, several years behind the UK in terms of bus and train privatisation, would be a key driver of growth in 2005.
Arriva said it was increasing its final dividend by five per cent to 14.07p, giving a total annual dividend of 18.9p.