National Express ‘minimising impact’ of bus driver shortages as passenger levels recover

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National Express PLC said it is managing a shortage of bus drivers across its network and still expects to hit its financial targets this year.


In a trading update, the bus, coach and rail group, said it is “minimising the impact on revenue and tightly controlling costs” but noted the ongoing driver shortages.


Bus operators have accused hauliers of poaching drivers to fill their gaps and said recently that 4,000 new recruits are needed by the public transport sector


The FTSE250 group, which is in talks about a merger with rival bus group Stagecoach, added it still expected “robust positive free cash flow in 2021, reflecting the improved trading performance through the year and the capital expenditure reduction actions taken in 2020”.


Passenger levels in the UK are now up to 76% of pre-Covid levels, it said, with income supported by the government’s Bus Recovery Grant, which runs through to 5 April 2022.


UK Coach passenger levels are at 52% of pre-Covid levels and up from 33% in June.


“The recent fuel shortages in the UK have had no impact on our businesses; we have had continuity of supply throughout,” it said.


Ignacio Garat, chief executive, added that the group has completed a business review, with the new strategy to be detailed at an investor day next Monday (18 October).

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