Bosses appointed for new train operator with services through Wigan

The transport companies about to start running a key intercity route which passes through Wigan has made a raft of senior appointments.

By Andrew Nowell
Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 9:22 am
Updated Saturday, 28th December 2019, 1:23 am
Virgin will stop running West Coast Main Line services next month
Virgin will stop running West Coast Main Line services next month

Two managing directors have been put in position at First Group and Trenitalia, which will replace Virgin as the firm running the West Coast Main Line which goes through Wigan North Western, and other leaders have also been appointed.

However, the changeover is nowhere near as comprehensive a shake-up as might have been imagined with a large number of Virgin top brass moving over to the new concern.

One of the two MDs is Phil Whittingham, who has been managing director of Virgin Trains since 2013 and is moving into a similar role at the Intercity West Coast business.

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The other is Caroline Donaldson, who is moving from her role as bid director at First Group to the MD position in the West Coast Partnership Development.

Mr Whittingham will oversee the running of the intercity passenger services between the North West and London, the Midlands, Scotland and North Wales.

Ms Donaldson, meanwhile, will provides services which will help the company operate the controversial high-speed rail project HS2, working with the company behind the new route and the Department for Transport.

Elsewhere the leadership will have a familiar look to the rail industry as the existing five-strong senior management team at Virgin Trains is transferring to the new Intercity West Coast business.

Two interim directors at Virgin will also move across.

The operator, which takes over on December 8, has already made spending pledges in the borough, promising to make improvements at Wigan North Western.

The overhaul could include new waiting rooms, more facilities for customers, extra car parking spaces and better accessibility for disabled train passengers or those with mobility issues.

The company has also vowed to simplify fares and put more trains on the rails.

However, the announcement of Virgin’s replacement back in August was not without controversy, with a rail union criticising the new company in charge and eyebrows being raised at the involvement of another European firm based in the public sector running UK services.

Trenitalia is a subsidiary of a firm wholly owned by the Italian government.

Announcing the new senior appointments, First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “We look forward to operating the West Coast Partnership. These appointments demonstrate our determination to deliver a range of improvements for InterCity West Coast passengers during the first phase of the partnership and help deliver the railway of tomorrow.

“Our aim is to provide exceptional service as standard for our customers.

“Phil and Caroline bring great experience, insight and drive to deliver the significant improvements we’re committed to while also establishing the plans and initiatives which will form the bedrock of future high speed rail services.”

Four other directors have been appointed to the West Coast Partnership Development team.