Stagecoach and owner of Upper Crust lifted by commuting resurgence | Stagecoach

Stagecoach and the transport hub food specialist SSP have each reported a return of business to about two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels thanks to a resurgence in commuting but warned of uncertainty ahead because of the rise of the Omicron variant.

The bus and rail operator and the owner of the Caffè Ritazza and Upper Crust chains both benefited from the easing of coronavirus restrictions and a return to the office but that now looks at risk amid reports that the government could impose its coronavirus plan B to tackle rising cases.

SSP, which operates 2,800 outlets worldwide in airports and railway stations, said that in the first nine weeks of its new financial year it had 72% of its units open, providing two-thirds of 2019 level revenues.

However, the company, which reported a £411m pre-tax loss for the year to the end of September, warned of the impact of Omicron over the next few months.

“While there remains some uncertainty in the immediate outlook over the winter months, particularly over the potential impact of the Omicron variant on travel restrictions, we are confident in our ability to manage any near-term volatility,” the London-listed SSP said.

The company’s revenues fell 42% year on year to £834m, and it expects sales to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

New rules were introduced this week, including pre-departure Covid tests for people arriving in the UK, while 11 African countries have been put on the red list for travel.

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The British bus, tram and rail operator Stagecoach reported a rise in first-half profits, with public transport usage picking up.

The company – which announced a pre-tax profit of £31m in the half year to the end of October, up from £5.4m a year earlier – said that passenger journeys hit 70% of pre-pandemic levels in November.

Last week the government imposed mandatory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops in England to curb the spread of Omicron. “[There has been] some recent softening, with Storm Arwen and changing Covid-19 guidance,” Stagecoach said.

Total revenues grew from £454m to £579m year on year, with Stagecoach’s UK regional bus operations up 34.7%, its London bus business up 7.2% and rail operations up 93%.