We had picked up on the ‘grapevine’ a few weeks ago that Bob Dennison, Managing Director at Stagecoach South West had left the company. Now we have confirmation in a statement issued locally rather than at Stagecoach Group level.
We wish Bob well for the future. He has always been approachable and assisted whenever we have had any fleet queries both in his time at Stagecoach East and latterly during his time at Stagecoach South West.
We first met Bob back in 2004 when, as Engineering Manager at Peterborough depot, he oversaw the engineering elements of the introduction of into service of 20 Dart SLFs to launch the Peterborough Citi network.
Bob was very aware of the impact that good media and PR could have on the business and pro-actively supported the then Commercial Director Philip Norwell and MD Andy Campbell in creating impact. It was a real pleasure working with Bob and his engineering team to get a series of photographs that showed the impact of the investment in 20 new buses.
Bob has had a 25-year bus industry career, 20 of those with Stagecoach.
He began his bus industry career in 1994 as an apprentice mechanic in New Zealand before starting work with Stagecoach in Hull.
In 2000, Bob achieved a place on Stagecoach’s Staff Development Programme, and subsequently moved to Cambridge as Engineering Supervisor.
He then had a spell as Engineering Manager at Peterborough depot before returning to Cambridge depot as Engineering Manager. Bob was appointed Engineering Director at Stagecoach East in 2008.
For the last four years, Bob has managed Stagecoach’s South West of England business, which runs local bus services across Exeter, East Devon, Torbay, South Devon, North Devon, Somerset and into Cornwall and Dorset.
Mark Threapleton, Stagecoach Chief Operating Officer, said: “I would like to thank Bob for the contribution he has made over many years at a number of companies across Stagecoach, including in the south west. We wish him well for the future.”
Mr Dennison said: “I've greatly enjoyed working with the team at Stagecoach South West, and with colleagues across the wider business, over the past two decades and I will look back fondly on the many achievements that I have been part of. Stagecoach has been a huge part of my life, but the time has come for a different focus and I'm looking forward to new challenges ahead. I would like to thank all the people I've worked with at Stagecoach over the years for their commitment, assistance and support."
Mike Watson, who was previously Stagecoach regional director for England and Wales and who has most recently been working with the business development team, has been appointed interim Managing Director, Stagecoach South West, while a formal recruitment process takes place.
We were aware that there had been a train damaged in a collision at Neville Hill depot on November 13th 2019 as it affected LNER's ability to operate a full service on the East Coast Main Line.
We weren't aware of the severity of the impact until we received a Press Notice from the Rail Accident Investigations Branch who are now investigating.
At about 21:40 hrs on Wednesday 13 November 2019, an empty passenger train approaching the maintenance depot at Neville Hill in Leeds, caught up and collided with the rear of another empty passenger train moving into the depot on the same track. The low speed movement of trains close together is permitted by the signalling system at this location. The leading train was travelling at around 5 mph (8 km/h) and the colliding train at around 14 mph (22 km/h). No one was injured in the accident.
The colliding train was a 9-coach class 800 train, part of the Intercity Express Programme (IEP). Its leading end suffered significant damage during the collision. The second train was a High Speed Train (HST) set comprising 9 coaches and a class 43 locomotive at each end. The trailing class 43 locomotive on this train also suffered significant damage.
As a result of the collision, the trailing bogie of the second and third coaches and the trailing axle of the fourth coach on the class 800 train, derailed to the right in the direction of travel.
The RAIB investigation will identify the sequence of events which led to the accident and the factors that contributed to its consequences. It will consider:
I was there at the beginning. As a journalist working on RAIL magazine I spent many hours trawling through rail franchise documents and attending both Government and prospective franchisee briefings.
I can’t but admit that I was excited when Virgin said it was to bid for a piece of the rail franchise action. The proposals were radical but based around real investment.
There were initial issues around poor train presentation and delays. What Virgin could do was invest but it couldn’t deliver investment immediately. The argument from passengers, politicians and user groups was that all Virgin had delivered was ‘gloss’ and that underneath to sparkling paint the product was the same old and tired BR train and service.
I had confidence that improvements would be made and I jumped from Journalist to PR man in 2000 to join Virgin Trains. There were good times and there were bad but when I left twelve years later the negative media bombardment of Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Trains was a distant memory.
It is, therefore, with a tinge of sadness that I note that in less than two weeks’ time Virgin will relinquish the West Coast franchise. It is doing so in style and we really like the short video it has produced to mark the passing, even if it has brought Mr Blobby back into the public sphere.
So let’s let Virgin Trains take up the story…..
Virgin Trains has launched a tongue-in-cheek music video featuring founder Sir Richard Branson, celebrities from across two decades and a host of staff to wave goodbye to the West Coast Mainline, and celebrate its achievements as the UK’s longest running rail franchise.The train operator is bidding a fond farewell to customers who have taken almost 500 million trips on its services since 1997. Virgin Trains is taking viewers on one final ‘journey’ with a two-minute video starting when the franchise began in 1997 and ending in 2019. Featuring Richard and a cast of Virgin Trains employees who lip-sync to (I’ve Had) the Time of My Lifefrom the iconic movie Dirty Dancing, it has been released to mark the final weeks of the Virgin Trains franchise, which is due to end in early December.
The video also stars some familiar faces from the ‘90s to present. From Crinkly Bottom’s most infamous resident, Mr Blobby, to Shaun Williamson, who made his name playing hapless Barry in Eastenders,with celebrity cameos for viewers to spot in between.
Commenting on the video’s release, Richard said: “Virgin Trains has led the UK rail industry for over 20 years, delivering faster journeys, ground-breaking innovation and award-winning customer service. Our 3,500 people are at the heart of the business and are the stars of this video, which celebrates the amazing work they have done to become the top-rated franchise in the UK today. We’ve had the time of our life serving our customers and wanted to celebrate the fun we have had with them since 1997.”
Over the course of our franchise tenure, Virgin Trains has nearly trebled passenger numbers, achieved consistent industry-leading customer satisfaction scores and introduced a fleet of tilting Pendolino trains. We have also led the field in tech innovation by automatically repaying people for delays, making digital tickets available for all fare types, introducing the ability to buy tickets on Amazon Alexa and launching our onboard entertainment streaming service, BEAM.
Phil Whittingham, MD, Virgin Trains, said: “Of course we’re extremely sad that Virgin Trains is disappearing as a train operator, but we wanted to leave as we entered: by having fun. We’re immensely proud of our track record over more than two decades and hope our customers enjoyed travelling with us as much as we enjoyed serving them.”
Kai Leung, an onboard Customer Service Assistant with Virgin Trains said: “I loved taking part in the film – it was great fun to celebrate everything we’ve achieved as a business over the past 22 years. I absolutely love my role at Virgin Trains and I’m sad to be saying goodbye; every day is different, and it’s a privilege to have a part in creating memorable experiences for our customers when they travel with us. We’re looking forward to continuing to serve customers on the West Coast when the new franchise starts in December.”
Watch the full video here: www.virgintrains.co.uk/22yearsor here: https://youtu.be/vrzv3a65X3w
All Images (c) Virgin Trains
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.