Increase in FirstGroup profits

Tim O'Toole Tim O'Toole said the company was in "robust shape"

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Turnover and profits at bus and rail operator FirstGroup were boosted by increased ticket sales at both its UK rail and US Greyhound bus division.

Pre-tax profits at the Aberdeen-based firm rose 14.3% for the six months to the end of September on an adjusted basis to £77.7m.

The company also announced a 7% increase in its half year dividends.

Much of the rise in profit was put down to sales of first-class tickets, particularly those bought in advance.

The demand for fully-flexible tickets also contributed to the increase.

It was also assisted by improved conditions at its US Greyhound coach division, where it runs a fleet of about 60,000 yellow school buses, although there was a fall in profits.

In the bus division, which operates a fleet of 8,500 vehicles and runs one in five of all local bus services, operating profits rose by 9.1% to £55.4m, due to cost savings and lower fuel costs.

The rail division, which runs Great Western, ScotRail, Capital Connect, and TransPennine Express, grew passenger revenues by 4.4%. Rail operating profits were in line with the previous year at £48.4m.

Tim O'Toole, who replaced founder Sir Moir Lockhead as chief executive this week, said the company was in "robust shape and well positioned to benefit from future economic recovery".

Across the group, profits were £82m when including one-off-items, a big increase on the £28.6m seen a year earlier.

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