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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 11:11 GMT
FirstGroup profits stay on track
FirstGroup train
FirstGroup says its rail businesses have "outperformed"
A strong performance from FirstGroup's UK rail services have helped to boost profits at the transport firm.

Income from FirstGroup's five UK rail passenger franchises rose 11% in the six months to 30 September, pushing pre-tax profits up 9% to 62.1m ($114m)

First said revenues from the Great Western Link franchise which it began operating in April had grown 12%. Total sales at the Aberdeen-based company, which is also the UK's largest bus operator, rose 7% to 1.27bn.

Bus operations grow

"Our rail division has continued to outperform," said chief executive Moir Lockhead.

The firm is Britain's largest bus operator with a fleet of 9,300 buses
It operates the Great Western, Great Western Link, North Western, TransPennine Express, and ScotRail rail franchises
It also operates freight services through GB Railfreight
Its North American unit operates urban and school bus services

"The second half of the year has started well and we expect to achieve our earnings target for the full year."

First said its bus service in London continued to grow while it was continuing to develop partnerships with local authorities to improve bus services across the UK.

However, operating profit at the firm's North American bus operation fell as a result of higher fuel costs and the impact of successive hurricanes.

The market reacted positively to the company's results, sending FirstGroup's shares up 14.5p to 303p in morning trade.

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