Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

First Great Western boss resigns

A First Great Western train
A rail watchdog called services on FGW "abysmal" in 2007

The boss of rail franchise First Great Western (FGW) has unexpectedly resigned from his post citing personal reasons.

Andrew Haines is widely credited with turning around the worst performing rail company in the UK since taking up the post in September 2007.

In recent months punctuality had improved dramatically, says BBC South transport correspondent Paul Clifton.

Mr Haines was managing director of all First Group's rail firms, as well as chief operating officer at FGW.

Other franchises in the group included First Capital Connect, First ScotRail and First Trans Pennine Express.

Mr Haines was put in charge of rebuilding FGW's services last year, amid calls by MPs for the firm to be stripped of its flagship franchise.

'Abysmal' services

There had been passenger protests following severe overcrowding, late trains and poor customer care.

One in four trains had been arriving more than 10 minutes late and rail watchdog London TravelWatch had called services "abysmal".

Mr Haines said his departure was a personal decision.

"We have made real progress in service delivery at First Great Western and I am confident that the team in place there will continue to make further improvements," he said.

"Having effectively performed two parallel, demanding roles now for some time, I have decided to take some time away from work to consider the best direction for my future career.

"This is entirely my own decision and I am grateful for the support and encouragement of the First Group board during my time with the company."

He is replaced by the company's performance director Mark Hopwood.

Mary Grant, head of ScotRail, will stand in as overall head of First Group's rail services.

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