- Bus and train operator Stagecoach reported a large fall in first-half profit and scrapped its interim dividend as the pandemic crunched demand for public transport.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through September dropped to £5.4 million, down from £65.9 million year-on-year, as revenue sank 43% to £454.6 million.

Stagecoach said the fact that it was able to remain profitable reflected management actions to respond to Covid-19 and support from government and local authorities.

At its regional bus business, the company said it had seen a significant recovery in patronage and commercial revenue since May, notwithstanding social distancing and other restrictions throughout that period.

That business was currently operating around 91% of prior-year vehicle mileage. Commercial sales had recovered to almost 60% on the prior year, but were now at around 54%, reflecting some tightening of Covid-19 restrictions.

In the London bus division, Stagecoach said there has been a continuation of strong operating and financial performance, reflecting additional contracts.

'We welcome the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments' recognition of the importance of bus and tram services, as evidenced by the sector-specific actions they have taken to support the continuation of vital services during the Covid-19 pandemic,' chief executive Martin Griffiths said.

'We are working closely with our government and sector partners on a new framework to ensure the country's public transport networks adapt to new working and travel patterns, are fit for the post-Covid world, and meet the continuing needs of our customers and communities.'

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