23 May 2009

NX sells its London buses

The biggest bus-related news story this week was announced on Thursday lunchtime, when the National Express Group announced that it had sold its Travel London bus business to NedRailways - the Netherlands' state-owned rail company - for a cash sum of £32 million.

Industry people know the problems National Express face, specifically in its rail franchise portfolio - their East Coast operation in particular - and the sale has been widely made in order to reduce some of its debt.

While its exit from London is for a totally different reason to Stagecoach's departure a couple of years ago, Transport for London (TfL) is expected to make significant savings across its entire remit and should the number of regulated bus service miles it awards to operators be reduced, the amount operators receive in payments will go the same way. By selling now, before TfL signals how exactly it is to make the savings the Greater London Assembly has imposed upon it, the business' net worth is likely to be at a relative peak in the short-term.

NX is wrestling with a 'debt mountain' of £1.4 billion and needs to refinance £484 million of this by 2010. Add to this the negotiated £1.4 billion NX is required to pay the government for its East Coast franchise, with this year's payment of £395 million dwarfing that of last year's - £85 million - something(s) had(has) to give.

Travel London, while being considered a smaller operator in London, has a total of 6 depots and operates around 360 buses on a total of 56 TfL and non-TfL bus services.

Beddington - 70 vehicles - Routes 3 152 157 434 917 931 G1 N3 P13

Battersea - 108 vehicles - Routes 35 156 211 344 452 C3 N3 N35 344

Walworth - 115 vehicles - Routes 40 100 129 188 343 381 C1 N343 N381 (+ 1 non-TfL service)

Fulwell - 72 vehicles - Routes 235 481 490 941 969 H20 H25 H26 R68 R70 (+ 3 non-TfL services)

Hayes - 27 vehicles - Routes 112 350 H28 U7

Byfleet - no TfL routes operated, though 11 non-TfL bus services do run out of this depot under the Travel Surrey name.(CW)