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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
First profits to hit expectations
A First Group bus
First runs buses in Bristol and London
Transport company First Group says growth in its bus and train operations will boost its yearly profits in line with market expectations.

First, based in Aberdeen and running buses in London and Bristol, said the bus division had benefited from growth.

Its train operations - the First Great Western franchise running from London to Wales and the South West - had boosted passenger numbers by 5%.

Pre-tax profits of 160m are expected for the year to March, up from 159.8m.

More trains

First added that its new TransPennine Express franchise had made a "good start", despite having a planned order for new trains reduced from 56 to 51 by the Strategic Rail Authority.

Although passenger representatives in the North West have expressed concern about the cut, First said the new trains would still allow it to run more services than under the current timetable.

The TransPennine Express (TPEX) franchise, which First began running in February with French group Keolis, combines regional services from Newcastle and Leeds to Manchester and Liverpool.

A First spokesman said the figure of 56 new trains, which Siemens is building in Germany, had always been provisional.

He confirmed that the trains, which will cost more than 230m, would have fewer seats than the older stock they are replacing.

But he said they would be timetabled to provide more seats on peak morning services into Manchester and Leeds than are currently available.

The spokesman added that the company would buy more new trains if future demand justified it.

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