South West Trains managing director quits

The managing director of South West Trains has left the company after a reorganisation by Stagecoach which won the franchise earlier this year.

Peter Field, who originally led a rival management buyout bid for SWT with CGEA, the French transport company, has been ousted after only seven months in the job and terminated his employment "by mutual agreement" last week. Stagecoach said the reason for Mr Field's departure was the reorganisation of the company into four divisions - UK bus, train leasing, overseas and train operations which includes South West Trains. Mr Field's role has been taken over by Brian Cox, who will carry out the task in conjunction with his previous role as chairman of SWT. Mr Cox is on the board of the parent company and used to be managing director of Stagecoach South.

The fact that Stagecoach has won only one very small franchise, the Island Line on the Isle of Wight, in addition to its initial success with SWT, means the company felt it had too many managers in its fledgling train business.

While the company said that SWT had performed well, City sources suggested there had also been some concern at SWT's failure to bring down costs quickly enough to meet its own onerous profitability targets.

Under the agreement with the franchising director, Stagecoach will receive pounds 60m of subsidy in its first year compared with pounds 63.5m, which BR would have received, and the amount of support declines to pounds 40m by the end of the seven-year franchise term.

Soon after Stagecoach took over, about 150 of the 4,000 staff were made redundant but since then efforts to bring down staff numbers have been stymied.

Negotiations with the unions for productivity deals have not yet been finalised, although ticket office staff are voting on a deal which will reduce numbers without the need for compulsory redundancies.

Mr Field said last night: "I have left the company by mutual agreement. There are no skeletons in the cupboard. The company is in a very healthy state. My departure was simply the result of the reorganisation."

Comment, page 19

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