Keolis results offer hope to transport operators around the world

Keolis’ results are more than just figures, they suggest that the future may well be brighter than the pessimistic vision many operators fear is waiting for them post-COVID-19.

Keolis has opened a new section of its first tram network in China

Keolis CEO Bernard Tabary its services in Shanghai had almost returned to pre-pandemic ridership levels

Transport operator Keolis has announced revenues of €6.1 billion in 2020, down 7.5 per cent, following a year marked by the pandemic.

Keolis, which runs transport networks in cities across the globe, announced the result in a press conference this morning, in which senior figures within the company also revealed their optimism for the future of the transport industry.

2020 was of course the most difficult of years for operators around the world, and this was no different for Keolis, as Chairwoman of the Keolis Executive Board Marie-Ange Debon confirmed.

“Since the crisis began, the Group has worked hand-in-hand with public transport authorities to implement the necessary safety measures to protect passengers and employees and to adapt the transport offer wherever necessary,” she said.

Keolis is perhaps in a somewhat unique position of operating transport services in cities globally, from Boston in the US to Jiaxing in China. Kathleen Wantz-O’Rourke, Group Executive Director Finance and Legal, said this meant Keolis’ losses were able to be mitigated, as COVID-19 restrictions differed in different countries at different times.

Yet this geographical diversity also offered an insight into what the transport industry can expect in post-COVID-19 future. Group Executive Director France, and Chairman of Effia, Frédéric Baverez, claimed that transport services had bounced back quickly after lockdowns had finished, whether that be earlier in 2020 in the cases of China and Australia, or the summer in the case of most of Europe.

In fact, International CEO Bernard Tabary also claimed that services run by Keolis in Shanghai were back to the levels they were pre-pandemic, suggesting that the appetite for public transport remains, and will in fact resurrect fairly quickly one lockdowns end in other parts of the world.

It’s this that will perhaps be of most interest to the industry. Keolis’ global portfolio acts as a useful insight into the future for operators in Europe and the US, who are perhaps forgiven for holding anxieties that former passengers may never regularly use buses or trams ever again now their working world has been turned upside down.

“We approach 2021 with confidence in order to return to the path of growth,” continued Debon. “Convinced of the key role that public transport will play in an economic, inclusive and sustainable recovery, and determined to put our expertise to work to meet these challenges, we have set out a corporate purpose that reflects our commitments.”

Though the losses have been brutal, and Keolis’ shrink in growth may well turn out to be a lot more positive than other operators’ results for 2020, the fact that it was able to mitigate its losses in areas particularly affected by the pandemic with those that have witnessed a return to ‘normal’ life more quickly, will no doubt provide hope for operators based in Europe and the US.