Even as I was writing my piece about the closure of the Travel Centre at Oxford Station, First Great Western was relieving Alison Forster of the top job.
The company is performing very badly all over its region, but Oxford suffered in particular from timetable changes last winter. If the original decision was bad, Forster’s handling of the fallout was worse, culminating in an embarrassing climb-down. Commuters are generally docile, resigned to their lot as fodder for First Group’s shareholders and victims of New Labour’s neglect of public transport. It was quite a feat on Alison Forster’s part to incite the formation of a protest group, Ox Rail Action.
Forster’s role has been taken over by First Group’s UK Rail managing director, Andrew Haines. Railway executives, now as before privatisation, come in various shades of incompetence on a scale which starts at “useless” and works its way down to Alison Forster’s level. It remains to be seen where on that scale Haines lies.
Alarmingly, Alison Forster has been moved to become rail safety and performance director at First Group. First Group’s performance is a lost cause anyway, but it is more than a little worrying that someone who has failed at her last job should be given safety as a consolation prize.