Infrastructure improvements in Birmingham offer exciting prospects for the growth of the transport industry, National Express has insisted.
The company's new chief executive Richard Bowker said yesterday the redevelopment of New Street Station and the new Digbeth Coach Station would finally give the city the passenger facilities it deserved.
Mr Bowker was speaking as the group announced its results for the year ended December 31, which showed a 17 per cent rise in pretax profit to #104.1 million.
The figures showed the group had attracted a four per cent rise in coach passengers and a six per cent jump in those travelling on its trains. Mr Bowker said: "We are committed to the Midlands and the New Street redevelopment is a big opportunity for growth with considerable momentum behind it.
"We see it as an ideal business interchange but for it to succeed there has to be an integration between rail, coach and bus services."
He said that as a major stakeholder in the area, National Express was willing to provide investment if the sentiment was matched by other agencies.
"Birmingham has made a fantastic job of its redevelopment and has been transformed in recent years.
"Public transport has an important part to play in helping to sustain that success and if the various agencies involved are prepared to invest in the infrastructure then we will dig into our pockets and invest in the transport," he added.
In the wider context, the group has said it is looking forward to a further profitable year with more acquisitions planned.
Mr Bowker said the group was eyeing a number of opportunities both in the UK and abroad.
A service review, completed by Mr Bowker following his appointment in September, has reiterated the group’s commitment to rail services, which currently include Midland Mainline and Central Trains.
The company said it had made good progress on its franchises in the new year with the submission of its bid for the East Midlands routes.
It is also be putting forward its bid for the new Cross Country franchise within the next week and have also pre-qualified for the Inter City East Coast franchise.
The group has committed itself to investing in sales and marketing to drive passenger growth, whilst remaining focused on improving its customer service.
Profits before exceptional items came in at #156.1 million – ahead of analysts’ expectations of #150.3 million and up from #135.3 million a year earlier.
Strong airport growth boosted customer numbers at its Stansted and Gatwick Express services but profits at the division slipped from #64.2 million last year to #49.1 million, largely due to the transfer of the Great Northern and Wessex franchises in April 2006, and increasing fuel bills.
The company’s coach business profits grew to #23.7 million from #21.5 million last year.
The group’s bus division, mainly focused in the Midlands, saw revenues rise to #300.8 million, from #268.6 million a year earlier, despite a #9 million increase in fuel costs.
The introduction of concessionary fares and real time journey information helped boost performance at the arm.
Meanwhile, the group’s US school bus service saw operating profits rise by #4.1 million to #39.1 million, after securing $30 million (#15.3 million) of new business.
The company also benefited from the integration of Spanish coach and bus service Alsa as profits soared from #2.6 million last year to #44.3 million.
Chairman David Ross said: "We believe we can do more in 2007 and beyond by offering new services, putting our customers and stakeholders at the forefront of everything we do."