The boss of the Caledonian Sleeper train has resigned a day after the Scottish transport secretary said faults with the embattled rail service would take another two months to fix.
Ryan Flaherty, who had been managing director of the London-to-Scotland sleeper service for almost two years, announced on Wednesday that he would leave the position as soon as a successor had been appointed.
Serco, the outsourcing company that runs the much-criticised franchise service, said Flaherty was leaving for family reasons and would move to a different job within the company, in south-west England, closer to his home.
The announcement of Flaherty’s decision to stand down came a day after the Scottish transport secretary, Michael Matheson, told MSPs that he had engaged directly with Serco bosses about faults with the £150m fleet of new sleeper carriages made by the Spanish train company CAF.
Matheson said it would take another “couple of months” to fix the numerous faults that have plagued the sleeper service since Serco relaunched the train as a luxury “hotel on wheels”.
The new train, which was launched in April 2019, has been beset with difficulties including severe delays, midnight evacuations, botched reservations, broken air conditioning and a fault that led to emergency exit windows being locked shut.
The Caledonian Sleeper was last week named by the Office of Rail and Road as the UK’s most-complained about rail service. Figures showed the train had 394 complaints per 100,000 journeys between July and September 2019 – up 221% on the same period in 2018.
Stressed train staff also voted to strike, alleging that Serco bosses had ignored “serious concerns raised by staff that have ruined working lives and placed the workforce under intolerable pressure”.
Matheson said: “Not only have I engaged with Serco on this matter, I have also engaged directly with senior executives within CAF around the specific problems which have been experienced with the introduction of the new rolling stock. There are a range of measures which have been taken as a result of that.
“There has been a rolling programme of retrospective technical work that has been undertaken on the new rolling stock by CAF.”
Matheson said good progress had been made in addressing the faults, but that Serco expected it to take a couple of months until work was completed to “ensure all the technical issues which have had an impact on the passenger experience have been closed out”.
John Whitehurst, Serco’s managing director for transport, said: “Ryan has led Serco Caledonian Sleeper during a transformational period. Under his leadership, the business is well positioned for growth, having successfully introduced a £150m fleet of new trains.
“We’re extremely pleased that he will remain with Serco in a new role, having taken the decision to return to the south of England for family reasons.”