Who made the most profit in 2018/19?

National league tables published as part of the Bus Industry Performance 2020 report show which are the most profitable bus companies in Britain on the basis of operating profit margin. There are some surprising names in this year's top twenty!

Of the 107 local bus companies analysed as part of our 2020 report, a total of just 13 achieved a margin of more than 10%, and only two, Abellio Surrey and Kinchbus, achieved over 20%. However, these two have to be treated with some caution, as Abellio Surrey was in the process of closure, whilst in the case of Kinchbus, much of the business overhead is borne by other companies in the Wellglade group.

Aside from this, Britain's most profitable bus company in 2017/18 was Lancashire United, the Transdev subsidiary that operates in Blackburn and East Lancashire, with a margin of 17.3% (though there may well be some overhead sharing here with other members of the Transdev Blazefield group). Next, on 13.7%, was Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach, the Go-Ahead subsidiary that runs the operations in the city together with a network of services in Sussex and Surrey under the Metrobus brand. Fifth came a FirstGroup subsidiary, Swansea-based First Cymru.

Stagecoach Group subsidiaries also occupied the next three places in the table, with Greater Manchester Buses South on 12.4%, Tyne & Wear operator Busways Travel Services on 12.3% and Cleveland Transit on 11.1%. Ninth came the NEG-owned giant West Midlands Travel on 10.9% with another FirstGroup subsidiary, Slough-based First Beeline completing the top ten on 10.8%.

Arriva's top placed business was Arriva Durham County on 9.7% in 14th position. The group also achieved one more top twenty placings with the Yorkshire company (8.7%, 19th place). Go-Ahead scored two more top twenty places, with its award-winning Go South Coast operation coming at 12th on 10.3% Meanwhile, 20th position went to fellow group subsidiary London General on 8.7% - the top earner in London in 2018/19. Three more FirstGroup companies also figure - First Glasgow (No 1) in 13th on 10.3%, Leicester Citybus, 17th on 8.9% and First West Yorkshire 18th on 8.8%. Making up the 20 were two Rotala subsidiaries - their West Midlands business Diamond Bus was 11th with 10.4% and their recently acquired Diamond Bus (North West) operation earned 9% and 16th place. One more Transdev Blazefield business also figured, being Harrogate & District (9.6%, 15th place).

What is notable about these companies is the diverse nature of their operating territories - we are no longer talking about all the big urban companies making good margins with the rest as also-rans. Companies with very mixed territory, including some rural and disadvantaged areas such as North Yorkshire and East Lancashire, are making good returns. Looking down the list, the successful businesses tend to be the ones with a strong customer service ethos and notable marketing efforts. It will come as no surprise to say that quality pays.

You can see the full table of all 107 companies in our report Bus Industry Performance 2020. This is on sale HERE. Alternatively, you can subscribe to whole Bus Industry Monitor database - it costs from just 68p per day. Subscribers get all our reports free of charge, and access to raw financial data and a host of other fascinating stuff - like a full listing of bus company privatisation and what subsequently happened to all the companies. CLICK HERE for more information.

 Britain's Top Twenty Most Profitable Bus Companies in 2018/19 (by Operating Margin)

No Company Name Margin (%)
Abellio Surrey Limited 26.70%
Kinchbus Limited 26.10%
Lancashire United Limited 17.30%
Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Co Ltd 13.70%
First Cymru Limited 12.90%
Greater Manchester Buses South Ltd 12.40%
Busways Travel Services Ltd 12.30%
Cleveland Transit Ltd 11.10%
West Midlands Travel Limited 10.90%
First Beeline Buses Limited 10.80%
Diamond Bus Limited 10.40%
Go South Coast Limited 10.30%
First Glasgow (No 1) Limited 10.30%
Arriva Durham County Limited 9.70%
Harrogate and District Travel Limited 9.60%
Diamond Bus (North West) Limited 9.00%
Leicester Citybus Limited 8.90%
First West Yorkshire Limited 8.80%
Arriva Yorkshire Limited 8.70%
London General Transport Services Ltd 8.70%