Under-fire London Northwestern train boss steps down to take "career break"

The boss of beleagured rail firm London Northwestern Railway is quitting to take a “career break”.

By Kevin Nicholls
Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:13 am
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:35 am
Northampton rail passengers have been hit by delays on London Northwestern Railway trains since last May.
Northampton rail passengers have been hit by delays on London Northwestern Railway trains since last May.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde had been in charge since LNWR took over running trains from Birmingham to London via Northampton from London Midland in December 2017.

Their franchise is due to run until March 2026. But 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.

West Midlands Trains – which operates trains under both London Northwestern and West Midlands Railway brands – has named Julian Edwards as its new MD.

Julian Edwards (right) is taking over from Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde as London Northwestern boss.

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.

“This is an exciting time to be joining West Midlands Trains as passengers will start to see the benefits of our £1billion investment programme.

“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 their May 2019 timetable would add more direct services between Liverpool, Birmingham, Northampton and London and more seats to ease overcrowding.

But they have since admitted the plan was way to complex and they 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 and led to calls from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to have WMT stripped of the franchise.

Tweaks to the timetable in December and a recruitment drive followed. But LNWR is now pinning their hopes on a major rewrite in May, more drivers and extra carriages bringing more comfort and reliability for passengers.