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Trainline recounts challenging year as ticket sales plunge

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Trainline PLC (LON:TRN) has updated investors on numbers for a difficult 2020 which saw sales of rail tickets plunge during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a trading update for the 12 months to 28 February, the FTSE 250 firm reported that total group net ticket sales had tumbled to £783mln, around 21% of the levels seen in the prior year, while revenues slumped by around three quarters to £67mln from £261mln.

READ: Trainline to face unavoidable earnings cuts, says JP Morgan

The company said government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 had resulted in a “significant reduction of passenger volume” during the year, with the UK particularly hard hit as ticket sales crashed to just 17% of the levels seen in the prior year.

Despite the bleak numbers, Trainline said its monthly cash burn during the year had been “lower than guidance” as it looked to cut costs, and that it expects to report an adjusted (EBITDA) loss for the year of between £24-27mln.

The firm also said its liquidity had been “significantly bolstered” by the issue of convertible bonds in January 2021, which it said is “protecting the business against an extended COVID-19 downturn scenario while giving greater flexibility to invest in potential future growth opportunities”.

Looking ahead, Trainline said while the current trading environment remained challenging, vaccine roll-outs and government plans to ease lockdown are expected to “create the conditions necessary for recovery”, highlighting that passenger volumes in the UK recovered “relatively quickly” when restrictions were briefly eased in the summer of 2020.

The company also said it has maintained its investment roadmap and that it is “well placed to lead the shift to online and digital, and to support the industry’s recovery”.

“The last twelve months have clearly been challenging for the industry. However, we are confident we will see more customers booking rail travel online and a continued market shift to digital when government lockdown restrictions ease, as we did last summer. Over the year we have kept our foot on the accelerator improving the customer experience, which means we are well positioned to capitalise on this shift to online and digital, and to support rail industry recovery when people start travelling again. In particular, we have leveraged our customer insights and data to understand the ‘new commuter’ and invested in app technology that will support the UK roll-out of new Flexi Tickets”, Trainline chief executive Jody Ford.

“As I step into the CEO role, I am excited by Trainline’s huge potential and its purpose. One of our major strengths is our people, and I want to thank them for their response to the pandemic, for continuing to innovate on behalf of our customers and for their work positioning us to support our industry partners for the recovery. We remain committed to championing rail as a greener mode of travel for millions of customers around Europe, and to driving the significant long-term growth opportunity for this business”, he added.

Shares in the firm rose 3.7% to 498.2p in early deals on Thursday.

Morrisons expects profits to rise as trading returns to normal

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