Bus group expects recovery’s arrival to be delayed until 2023

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Bus group Rotala expects that “true recovery” will not occur until 2023 as it forecasts lower volumes of passengers for the next 18 months.

But it acknowledged that “these are little more than best guesses because the long term effects of COVID-19 on travel, living and working patterns are fundamentally unknown”.

The group fell to a pre-tax loss of £4.8m last year, driven down by the wider impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although bus services continued to run throughout lockdowns, albeit at reduced levels, they were recognised as essential public services and received Government funding support quickly. This was on a “no profit/no loss position” and the grants include ratchets based on passenger numbers to keep this balanced.

Rotala was able to operate profitably in the year to November 2020, but incurred exceptional items of £4m that pulled down its overall position.

These included a £2.5m charge from fuel hedging, with fuel prices falling steeply at the start of the pandemic and only recovering slowly.

The group also decided to scrap 71 of its oldest vehicles in the fleet, which incurred a charge of £913,000.