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23 марта, 20:50

Rail franchising has hit the buffers. The question is, what replaces it? | Nils Pratley

Those who said it could only be replaced gradually were wrong. It was done over a weekendRail franchising is being suspended “for a limited period, initially six months,” said the Department for Transport. Are you sure? It seems more likely the whole franchising model, as understood since privatisation in the 1990s, is now finished for good.Who, after all, will want to revive a system that the government’s own adviser, the former British Airways boss Keith Williams, last year described as unfit for purpose even in happier times? Train operators themselves surely won’t be lobbying for the return of their franchises on the same financial terms. Continue reading...

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07 января, 21:17

South Western Railway may be nationalised after firm loses £137m

Accounts show joint venture between FirstGroup and MTR could go bust before end of 2020The strike-hit South Western Railway (SWR) franchise faces the prospect of nationalisation after its accounts revealed “significant doubt” that it could see out the year without going bust.The train company’s directors said it was uncertain that it could fulfil the terms of its franchise, while a £146m cash injection from its parent groups was likely to be used up before the end of 2020. Continue reading...

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16 декабря 2019, 22:39

Water companies would be best advised to swallow their medicine

Ofwat’s pricing review pitched as ‘toughest ever’ and firms have eight weeks to appealIn a parallel political universe, Ofwat’s pricing framework for the English and Welsh water companies for the next five years would have been redundant before it was announced on Monday. Incoming Labour ministers would instead be inspecting their soon-to-be nationalised assets.None of that will now happen, so the key issue in a still-privatised world is different. Will any of the companies that have bleated behind the scenes about a “politicised” regulatory process dare to allege unreasonable harshness on the part of Ofwat? Will any appeal to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)? Continue reading...

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16 декабря 2019, 21:23

Transport operator FirstGroup weighs up sale of US businesses

U-turn comes only months after group said it would focus primarily on US bus operationsFirstGroup is considering a sale of all its North American businesses, in an apparent reversal of strategy only months after the struggling transport group said it would focus primarily on its US bus operations.The group said it had appointed advisers to explore options, including the potential disposal of First Student, which operates about 43,000 yellow school buses, and First Transit, which provides outsourced public transport. Continue reading...

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06 декабря 2019, 19:19

Hitachi signs £350m deal to supply Avanti West Coast trains

British-built InterCity trains will supplement older models operated by First TrenitaliaGoodbye then Virgin, but will we miss you?British-built trains will supplement the refurbished Pendolinos on the new Avanti West Coast service, after the rail operator First Trenitalia announced a £350m contract with Hitachi Rail.The manufacturer will supply and maintain 10 electric and 13 bi-mode InterCity trains from its County Durham assembly plant. Continue reading...

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29 августа 2019, 15:30

South Western Railway passengers face four days of strikes

London Waterloo routes will be affected in dispute over role of train guardsFour days of strikes are due to bring disruption and delays for thousands of commuters on one of Britain’s busiest train services, South Western Railway.More than 40% of services on the network will not run on Friday and Monday, and only half of all scheduled trains will run at the weekend, when engineering works will also affect some services. Continue reading...

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14 августа 2019, 10:18

FirstGroup consortium to replace Virgin on west coast mainline

London-Glasgow intercity rail services will be joint venture with Trenitalia from DecemberFirstGroup has won the franchise to run west coast intercity trains, despite opposition from its own shareholders, fears over the financial viability of its other rail operations and legal action by rival bidders.The government announced that First, the majority partner in a joint venture with the Italian state operator Trenitalia, will take over intercity services on the London-Glasgow line from December. The line, which links the capital with cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, has been run since privatisation by Virgin Rail. Continue reading...

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02 июля 2019, 21:10

Funding Circle bins the boasts as Brexit bites

Lending platform’s revenue growth forecasts have halved as demand for small business loans dries upHelp your business fly, say the TV ads for Funding Circle. As if to show what’s possible, the online lending platform had itself valued at a remarkable £1.5bn in the flotation last year. Investors were invited to ignore current losses and feel the growth in revenues – up 55% to £142m in 2018, it turned out.Few businesses, even fintech operators with smart kit and a big marketing budget, can sustain that pace, but Funding Circle still reckoned 40% was on the cards this year. “We are confident of meeting our growth expectations for the year,” declared the chief executive, Samir Desai, as recently as March. As for Brexit, Funding Circle was being vigilant but “our UK business is not directly affected on a day-to-day operational basis by the prospect of the UK leaving the EU”, he said on the same day. Continue reading...

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25 июня 2019, 19:57

FirstGroup chairman to stand down

Third of investors vote against Wolfhart Hauser’s re-election at emergency meeting FirstGroup chair Wolfhart Hauser is to stand down after 30% of investors voted against his re-election, although the train and bus operator has survived an attempt by its biggest shareholder to oust the entire board.Shareholders voted by almost three to one to to reject 13 resolutions brought by activist investor Coast Capital seeking to remove the chief executive and five other directors, behind closed doors at an emergency general meeting in London on Tuesday. Continue reading...

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24 июня 2019, 21:43

FirstGroup investor Coast Capital makes some reasonable points | Nils Pratley

Amid a messy breakup strategy, putting new experts on the Firstgroup board makes senseHalf a decade ago, FirstGroup could boast it was “one of the world’s great transport groups”. That, at least, was the line used by Martin Gilbert when he bowed out as chairman after 27 years and, broadly speaking, it was correct. FirstGroup had grown from a few regional bus routes in Scotland to become very big in the UK and the US, as it still is today. There are 100,000 employees, the group carries 2 billion passengers a year and revenues last year were £7.1bn.So not the sort of company to be pushed around by a small but mouthy New York hedge fund? Well, actually, it might be. Continue reading...

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24 июня 2019, 20:45

Coast Capital gets backer in shareholder rebellion at FirstGroup

Columbia Threadneedle has said it will back resolutions to replace board in demand for group’s exit from UK railA second major shareholder has joined an investor drive to eject the board of FirstGroup as the transport group faces an emergency meeting on Tuesday that could result in Britain’s most lucrative rail franchise again slipping from its grasp.Columbia Threadneedle said it was backing resolutions brought by activist investor Coast Capital to replace seven directors including the chairman and chief executive of the one of the UK’s biggest bus and train operators. Continue reading...

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30 мая 2019, 12:56

FirstGroup to sell Greyhound as it bows to activist investors

Transport group announces surge in revenues while reporting £97m pretax lossFirstGroup has announced it will break up its business, sell its US coach line Greyhound, and possibly withdraw from UK rail operations, following pressure from major shareholders.The Aberdeen-based transport group said it would spin off its profitable UK First Bus operations, as it announced surging revenues but made a £97m pretax loss. Continue reading...

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10 января 2019, 15:35

UK train firms named and shamed over late compensation

Rail regulator says 3 million passengers sought money back for delays in six-month periodTrain operators that fail to pay compensation promptly to delayed passengers have been named and shamed by the rail regulator, which has published figures showing more than one in three rail companies are failing to meet the target response time.FirstGroup’s Hull Trains and TransPennine Express were the worst offenders in 2018, according to data published for the first time by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). Continue reading...

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13 ноября 2018, 20:00

FirstGroup's new boss to bid for more UK rail operations despite loss

Transport group reports increased losses of up to £4.6m under challenging conditionsThe new boss of FirstGroup has pledged to bid for more UK rail operations – despite the beleaguered transport group warning that profits in its existing rail business were in jeopardy.Matthew Gregory’s appointment as chief executive was announced with immediate effect on Tuesday, as FirstGroup reported increased losses, up to £4.6m pretax for the six months to 30 September. Continue reading...

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07 сентября 2018, 15:34

How Great Western Railway shunted forward calls for an industry overhaul

Trouble on the FirstGroup line has fuelled demands for a review of the entire British rail systemIn a year when a major intercity franchise collapsed, passenger numbers dwindled and a timetable change threw commuter train services into turmoil, it is little wonder that a sense of crisis has pushed the government to consider a rail review.Outcry over ever-rising fares, Virgin’s East Coast failure, then Thameslink and Northern chaos have all captured the headlines. Yet beyond all that, passengers have quietly suffered startling disruption, discomfort and delay in 2018 on a line that has undergone extraordinary investment and whose story poses further questions about how the railway is run, from procurement to franchising. Continue reading...

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14 июня 2018, 16:09

Fall in UK rail passenger numbers casts doubt on viability of franchises

Season ticket sales drop 9.2% with customers hit by rising fares, strikes and overcrowding Rail passenger numbers in the UK fell last year to 1.7bn in the biggest decrease since privatisation in the 1990s, casting fresh doubt on the viability of struggling franchises.According to figures published by the Office of Rail and Road, usage fell by 1.4% in the 2017-18 financial year, the first annual fall since 2009-10 and the biggest since 1993-4. Continue reading...

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31 мая 2018, 10:03

FirstGroup dumps chief executive as firm reports £326m loss

Aberdeen-based rail and coach group is ‘exploring options’ including sale of GreyhoundThe chief executive of FirstGroup, which runs buses in numerous UK cities and the Great Western, South Western and TransPennine rail franchises, has been ousted after the company slumped to a £326m loss.The troubled Aberdeen-based rail and coach operator, which has said it is exploring options including a sale of US bus group Greyhound, also said it remained committed to the TransPennine contract despite revealing it will lose more than £110m running the franchise. Continue reading...

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18 мая 2018, 17:27

UK railways prove less profitable than private operators once hoped

Collapse of East Coast franchise prompts questions about position of other firmsThe East Coast has once again proved that the railway from Scotland to London is not lined with gold for private operators. This week’s collapse of the Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec) franchise marks the third time in a little more than a decade that a train company operating on that line has failed to meet its contractual obligations. The decision to return the service to the public sector for the time being was made by Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, as a precursor to a new public-private partnership.Its collapse has been described as a“bailout” of Vtec’s owners, Stagecoach and Virgin, and has been widely criticised. Continue reading...

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12 апреля 2018, 20:10

Labour warns Apollo against pursuing interest in FirstGroup

Bus and rail company FirstGroup rejected offer from US private equity group Labour and the RMT union have warned the US private equity firm Apollo Global Management off pursuing its interest in the transport firm FirstGroup, after the British company rejected a takeover approach.FirstGroup, which operates UK rail franchises including Great Western and TransPennine Express, nearly 20% of local bus routes outside London and the US Greyhound coach service, said it had turned down a proposed cash bid from Apollo that it claimed “fundamentally undervalues the company and is opportunistic in nature”. Continue reading...

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12 апреля 2018, 00:35

FirstGroup rejects takeover bid from US equity group Apollo

British transport firm dismisses approach from private equity group as ‘opportunistic’Bus and rail company FirstGroup has rejected a takeover approach from the American private equity group Apollo, the British transport operator has announced. After shares rose more than 7% during trading on Wednesday amid rumours of a takeover bid, the board of FirstGroup issued a statement confirming an initial proposal had been made by Apollo Management but had been unanimously rejected, dismissing it as “opportunistic”. Continue reading...