Under-fire train firm replaces boss amid passenger backlash in Hemel Hempstead
Beleaguered rail firm London Northwestern Railway (LNWR) has named its new boss after the previous one quit to take a career break.
Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde had been in charge since LNWR took over running trains from Birmingham to London via Hemel Hempstead from London Midland in December 2017.
But last year he announced he would take a career break before moving on to new ventures.
The company has been under fire from passengers and politicians following the bungled introduction of a new timetable last May which led to mass delays and cancellations and its franchise is due to run until March 2026.
West Midlands Trains – which operates trains under both London Northwestern and West Midlands Railway brands – has now named Julian Edwards as its new MD.
Mr Edwards, who has worked for West Midlands Trains since 2017 and was recently MD of the new East Midlands Railway franchise, has more than 20 years senior rail industry experience including seven years as finance director with WMT’s predecessors, Central Trains and London Midland.
WMT say Mr Chaudhry-van der Velde’s made his decision to step down and take a career break last year and the pair will work together until Easter to ensure a "smooth transition".
Mr Edwards, a former finance director at LNWR’s predecessor London Midland, said: "The last six months has been very difficult and I would like to thank Jan for addressing many of the issues.
“There is still much to do. Work is well advanced on further performance improvements, the May 2020 timetable, additional compensation for non-season ticket holders and the roll-out of two brand new train fleets starting in the second half of this year.
“The introduction of our new trains combined with the investment programme in stations and customer services and the much-needed changes to timetables in 2020 gives us the opportunity to have a railway the people of West Midlands Trains and our customers can be proud of.”
LNWR promised its May 2019 timetable would add more direct services between Liverpool, Birmingham and London and more seats to ease overcrowding.
But it has since admitted the plan was way too complex and it did not have enough drivers or rolling stock to cover the extra services.
Strikes over the role of conductors and Network Rail signalling problems added to passengers' frustration.
Tweaks to the timetable in December and a recruitment drive followed. But LNWR is now pinning its hopes on a major rewrite in May, more drivers and extra carriages bringing more comfort and reliability for passengers.