National Express Results; Outstanding 2018!

It is always good to witness a Company that year on year constantly continues to grow from strength to strength. National Express have done that consistently over the last few years. To be fair, it really is a very impressive story, going back only a few short years it was on the brink of disaster. It had suffered a succession of set backs. Losing a doomed rail franchise, with consequent PR nightmares. Having a whopping 8 million pounds stripped overnight from the Coach division with the withdrawal of the OAP Concessionary fares scheme. On all fronts it was seen to be in disarray with revolts among share holders, (including me) and press speculation of dis-mantling and sell-offs.

In addition widescale losses eventually saw the departure of the then Chief Executive, and in stepped Dean Finch, one time aire apparent of Firstgroup, and then suddenly top dog and CEO at Tube Lines, who joined the National Express Group as CEO in February 2010. As it happened we at uTrack had been working with National Express since 2009, where the enlightened Operations Director Alex Perry, had commissioned us to do a proof of concept across the coach network. This we had done initially on the 606 route that crossed from Liverpool to Manchester and Leeds, taking in airports on route along with real and regular congestion problems. Back then they were paying out over a thousand quid a month in taxi fares in Liverpool alone to airline passengers who had”missed” coaches to catch planes so would demand a taxi to avoid missing their flights. As there was absolutely no accountability of the coach performance at all so taxis were ordered at will.

Within a few short weeks of having uTrack installed the monthly taxi bill from Scouseland had reduced to less than a 100 pounds a month, as email replies showed the punter a real time historic map of the coach actually arriving at the stop on time.This of course absolutely countered the claim and saved the Company money. In addition of course it also made the driver utterly accountable for their performance, to counter their fears of Big Brother style allegations we offered an amnesty, this worked well, as it actually defended the driver more often than not. It also allowed us to highlight constant late arrivals at key stop pinch points, where constant congestion was impacting on reliability and passenger confidence.

So, that was then, and it is fair to say that real challenges existed across all areas from North America, to ALSA in Morocco and Spain. Bus and Coach in the UK were both struggling and the rail debacle had been expensive and embarrassing. So. Let’s fast forward to the recently published 2018 results, Group revenue stands at 2.45 million, Group normalised operating profit sits at 257.7 million.The group operating profit is a whopping 215.4 million. And the full year dividend was a huge 14.85p great news for shareholders and well above the average for transport Companies. Record results across the board and truly impressive stats considering where they were just 9 short years ago when it was on its last legs.

The Coach performance has been really impressive from being thrown into a loss making position with the literally overnight withdrawal of a massive 8 million quid care of HMG. It has grown , year on year to record breaking performance. Coach were spectacular with load factors during the year up 60%, and equally impressive the improved revenue per mile was up 11.5%. Interestingly Dean Finch in the annual report drew attention to the technology investment used to underpin excellence, efficiency, and innovation. This technology has introduced DriveCam smart safety cameras across the combined fleet of 19.000 vehicles. In addition coach have have continued the shift to more convenient, cost effective, and innovative digital channels with over 13% growth in revenue through this segment in 2018. Seat reservations are also up a significant 19%, all in all excellent progress. Annecodatally the Christmas Day and Boxing Day UK Coach services reached record levels of passenger growth.

In conclusion, credit where it is due to Dean Finch and the senior team, In addition I will congratulate the efforts of Chris Healy the MD, UK Coach, and his senior team, Kevin Gale the Group COO, and Tom Stables head of German rail, UK bus, and coach. Last but not least David Bradford the new MD UK Bus was recently voted the top UK transport Manager of the under 40’s age group, across all transport modes, rail, air, maritime, coach and bus. Indicative of the quality of leadership within group, success as they say grows success. However, the challenge remains, namely next year how can they top that next year. I will watch with interst as ever, but either way superb results, so well done one and all.

Written by Austin Birks

March 1, 2019

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