“This industry has really quite gone to sleep in the last two or three years. It has lost its place in the sun. We need to push to think differently.”
That was the message to MPs on September 6 from Robin Gisby, chief executive of the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort Holdings Ltd (DOHL).
He also told MPs that TransPennine Express will remove 16 trains a day from the timetable from December, to “stabilise” the business.
Gisby and DOHL Chairman Richard George were summoned to appear before MPs on the House of Commons Transport Select Committee to give evidence on the public sector owning group, which is responsible for one in five passenger services. The date marked 100 days since they took over the former FirstGroup company.
Gisby chairs four passenger train operating companies: Northern, TransPennine Express, LNER and Southeastern.
“First and foremost, our task is stabilising,” he told MPs.
“On the side of the train, it says ‘Get Across the Pennines Quickly’. And that’s what we want to do. Running the trains on time. With a low-interval service, cancellations are the most dreadful thing you can do to people.
“You’re stepping into operators with staff who are pretty battered and bruised. If you had been on the front line at Northern two or three years ago, it was not a pleasant place to be. We are telling the staff that we are here to support them - we will invest in them and develop them. If the staff aren’t thinking the right way, things are not going to change.”
MPs wanted to understand how decisions made by publicly owned train operators differed from private companies.
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