The managing director of Hull Trains has resigned amid mounting concern about the reliability of its services to London.
Will Dunnett, who has been MD of the FirstGroup-owned company for five years, stepped down with immediate effect last week.
Since last Thursday there has been severe disruption for passengers travelling to Kings Cross after two of Hull Trains’ four-strong fleet needed repairs following damage to electrics during the recent snow and ice.
A third train is still out of action after an engine fire in December.
The disruption is just the latest for passengers. “Isolated and unrelated faults” were blamed last month after seven per cent of services were cancelled in the first five weeks of the year.
FirstGroup said Mr Dunnett's departure was not related to the current disruption.
Steve Montgomery, Managing Director First Rail, said: “Will Dunnett resigned from the business with immediate effect at the end of last week – I’d like to place on record my thanks to Will for his efforts at the company which has led it to regularly top independent passenger satisfaction ratings.”
Mr Montgomery said the team was currently being led by Louise Cheeseman, Director of Service Delivery. Ms Cheeseman was previously Director of Service Delivery at RAPT Metrolink in Manchester.
Today the train operating company was running less than half its normal services from the city to Kings Cross, after one of the two trains needing repairs to its electrics came back into service. However two trains remain off-line.
Hull city councillor Martin Mancey wants to meet Mr Montgomery at the earliest opportunity to raise concerns over the operator’s reliability, 18 months from when it is getting £60m in five new sets of new rolling stock.
Coun Mancey said: “I will be seeking some reassurances about the future and questioning whether it is not possible to bring in some trains from other franchises. I am not fully convinced that it is not possible.
“It is having a big impact on passengers and, perhaps more importantly in the long term, it is the reliability and credibility of this service.”
A source said: “Persistently over the last two years they have been having melt-down periods. On Monday you couldn’t go via Doncaster because East Coast wasn’t accepting their tickets. In some cases people were being diverted through Sheffield. It is not unusual and passengers are starting to lose confidence.
"The basic problem is they haven’t enough capacity. They haven’t enough spare sets when anything goes wrong.
“They have ordered the new sets in 2019, so they are going to be patching them up till then and that’s a worry.”
However Mr Montgomery said the situation was not as straightforward as may appear.
In a statement he said: “Hull Trains use a type of train (known as a Class 180) that we don’t use on any of our other franchises, and specific types of trains need to be approved to run on a particular route.
“Also, to carry out their duties safely, our drivers are required to have not only knowledge of the route but be trained in driving a specific type of train, which can take several weeks.”
He said the five new hi-tech, bi-mode trains, that will come into service at the end of 2019 “will not only deliver a more reliable service, it will increase capacity by 50 per cent and give the opportunity for further service improvements.”