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Rail operator silent over director's future
RAIL operator First Great Western is refusing to comment on reports that its head of passenger safety and punctuality is leaving the company.
Operations director Kevin Gale is said to be on gardening leave, according to sources who have spoken to the ASLEF union and the Adver.
First Great Western Executives will join Wiltshire MPs and Network Rail bosses on a return train trip from Swindon to Kemble tomorrow to mark the £9bn West Coast main line upgrade.
But the company would not confirm whether Mr Gale will be present.
A member of the company’s executive team who has worked in the industry for more than a decade, Mr Gale is responsible for a safe, punctual and customer-focused service.
ASLEF is seeking clarity about his position with district organiser Stan Moran, having requested information from First Great Western’s managing director Mark Hopwood.
Mr Gale’s role is crucial in restoring passenger confidence in the wake of two wretched months for commuters hit by widespread disruption and above-inflation fare rises.
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “I am aware of the situation, and that’s all I can say.
“Any announcements should come from First Great Western.”
Well-placed industry sources claimed last week that the long-serving 38-year-old was on gardening leave but First Great Western refused to comment on the speculation.
Mr Gale, who lives in a £300,000 farmhouse in Bristol, is listed as an active operations director of First Great Western Ltd since 2006 in documents held at Companies House.
He did not respond to messages left on his mobile phone this week.
The rail operator has been hit by setbacks in recent months which include disruption caused by flooding and landslips across the South West.
Commuters returning to work after the Christmas break then suffered travel misery due to over-running engineering works by Network Rail. Passengers vented their fury on Twitter after turning up at stations in the morning to find services had been delayed or cancelled.
Fare increases set by the Government have also led to frustration among passengers.
Calls to Mr Gale’s office were being answered by a secretary who said he would return in two weeks.
A spokesman for First Great Western declined to comment.
Mr Gale said at his farmhouse, near Bristol, last night: “Sorry I’ve got nothing to say.”