The first Siemens Class 444 EMU to be refurbished by the manufacturer under South Western Railway’s £50m Desiro interior upgrade programme has returned to service.

UK: Ahead of the launch of the West Coast Partnership franchise with Trenitalia on December 8, FirstGroup announced a number of changes to its UK rail leadership team on November 29.

With effect from January 6, the current Managing Director of the South Western Railway franchise, Andy Mellors, will take up a newly-established role of Managing Director, Non-Franchised Businesses. He will oversee open access operator Hull Trains, Tram Operations Ltd, which runs Transport for London’s Croydon Tramlink network, and First’s new East Coast open access business which is due to begin operating from late 2021, as well as the new contact centre that FirstGroup is establishing in Sheffield to centralise its customer service processes. Hull Trains Managing Director Louise Cheeseman her counterpart at Tram Operations Ltd Jackie Townsend will report to Mellors.

Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood will become Interim Managing Director at SWR pending the appointment of a permanent successor for Mellors; his role at GWR will be covered by current Deputy Managing Director Matthew Golton.

Commenting on the changes, First Rail Managing Director Steve Montgomery said ‘there are a huge number of exciting changes taking place across First Rail in December — new fleets, a new franchise and new timetables. Everyone will be focused on delivering these changes for our customers over the next few weeks, ahead of this new management structure taking effect from the New Year.

‘We are looking ahead to delivering our plans for more capacity and better customer experiences at all of our rail companies. With this in mind, we have created a new role to oversee our non-franchised businesses — as the industry evolves this area of our business is becoming ever more important. Andy Mellors brings with him a wealth of experience gained over many years in the industry and we wish him well in this new role.’