Bus company to carry on offloading depots

Key works on major routes

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FirstGroup put more of its bus services on the block after admitting fuel costs, lower demand and reduced subsidies were hurting the division.

The Aberdeen-based transport group, which runs services across Portsmouth and Hampshire, will accelerate its programme of disposals, which has already seen it offload operations in North Devon and King’s Lynn and a number of other depots, in order to protect profitability.

It warned conditions for urban services in Scotland and the north of England were particularly harsh and that cost efficiencies would not be sufficient to offset the impact of reduced government subsidies and fuel costs.

Bus operating profits fell nearly 10 per cent to £134.4m in the year to March 31 while the operating margin of 11.6 per cent is expected to fall to eight per cent this year.

FirstGroup, which is the UK’s biggest bus operator, said other divisions including UK rail and Greyhound coaches in the US were performing well as it recorded pre-tax profits of £271.4m, down one per cent on a year earlier.