England

South Western Railway: Andy Mellors to be replaced as managing director

Andy Mellors
Image caption Andy Mellors ran South Western Railway since it won the South West rail franchise in 2017

South Western Railway's (SWR) managing director is to be replaced, in an announcement made days before a planned 27-day rail strike is due to start.

Andy Mellors had been leading talks with the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union to resolve a long-running dispute over guards on trains.

The operator said he would be moving to a new role.

He is being replaced by Mark Hopwood, the boss at Great Western Railway, who previously ran Thames Valley services.

"More than half" of weekday trains will run during the rail strike beginning on Monday but the last services will be earlier than normal, SWR said.

SWR has faced criticism over the strike action which has been ongoing for two years, as well as the late refurbishment of trains and falling performance levels.

Talks at Acas between the operator and union aimed at averting the latest walk-out broke down on Thursday.

The union accused SWR of being "not interested in reaching a settlement".

SWR called the strike "unnecessary" because it had promised it would keep a guard on every train.

Analysis

Paul Clifton, BBC South transport correspondent

Mark Hopwood, the boss at Great Western, is one of the most highly regarded industry leaders, who has successfully steered Thames Valley services through a decade of massive upheaval - rebuilding Reading station, botched electrification and whole fleets of new trains, yet somehow he kept the service running.

It's an interim appointment.

But here's a thought: Mr Hopwood did a deal with the RMT at Great Western.

Most of its suburban trains run through the Thames Valley without a guard. On new trains, drivers operate the doors. All without a fuss, all without a strike.

What can he do at under-performing South Western?

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