East Coast Rail boosts profits

A railway company which was temporarily re-nationalised by the Government three years ago reported increased profits and an improvement in passenger satisfaction today.

Directly Operated Railways (DOR), which took over the running of the East Coast line from National Express, said its operating profit increased by 7% in the year to March to £7.1 million.

Turnover for the year amounted to £665.8 million, an increase of £20 million, leaving a profit before tax and service payments to the Department for Transport of £195.7 million, an increase of £13 million.

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Passenger journeys at East Coast, which runs trains from London to Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland, increased by 2.1%, while customer satisfaction at East Coast rose by 2%, and the latest punctuality figures were its best since records began in 1999.

DOR chairman Doug Sutherland said: “During the year, we made further very good progress with the business turnaround of East Coast, and continued to invest in our infrastructure assets, our people, and the delivery of significant improvements in customer service.

“Our assets have been worked harder, and a solid financial performance has been achieved in a challenging economic environment.

“The major challenge in May 2011 was the introduction of a comprehensive timetable change across the entire East Coast network.

“Despite being the biggest change on the East Coast Main Line in 20 years - and 10 years in the making by the industry - the new timetable was introduced seamlessly by East Coast. I want to thank everyone who helped to make that possible.”

DOR said it anticipated that the franchise will transfer to a new private operator around the end of 2013.

DOR said there had been a “major surge” of 21% in first class journeys during 2011/12, including a 31% increase in first class passenger journeys on Leeds to London services, 22% from Newcastle to London, and 39% increase on East Coast’s flagship London to Edinburgh route.

During 2011/12, 18.9 million passenger journeys were made with East Coast, a 2.1% increase on the previous year.

“With ageing assets, operational performance continues to be a challenge for East Coast,” said Mr Sutherland.

“During 2011/2, however, we stepped up our close relationship with Network Rail to create further improvements, as their infrastructure failures also have a direct and considerable impact on the ability of East Coast to deliver to target - and that close co-operation is now starting to pay-off.

“We still have much more to do. The business plan for the remainder of the franchise during 2012 and 2013 will see the good work continuing, with the twin aims of ensuring a successful transfer of the business back to the private sector, in good condition, and maximising the value of the franchise achieved by the Government and the taxpayer.”