Hull Trains boss underlines commitment to get back on track
THE woman at the top of Hull Trains has demonstrated her dedication and commitment to steer Hull Trains into an exciting new era when she addressed a business audience in Hull.
Louise Cheeseman, Managing Director of Hull Trains since February, told city centre business leaders of the company’s commitment to innovation and hard work to overcome the recent challenges faced by the train operating company, as well as the plans for major investment to ensure a successful future.
Ms Cheeseman, whose rail career started as a guard with Northern Spirit in Hull, highlighted the problems posed by the “Beast from the East” which hit the rail industry nationwide earlier in the year. She said Hull Trains had bounced back and was performing to the standards which have earned a series of national awards for performance and service.
In September the company celebrated its 18th birthday by passing the milestone of 10 million passengers, before unrelated mechanical faults to two of the firm’s four trains started a period of severe service disruption in October.
A fault to one of the services on Wednesday, October 3rd reduced the company to three trains, before a minor fire under one of the trains two days later reduced the fleet further.
But as an open access operator rather than a franchise, the company is unable to go to the Government for help.
Ms Cheeseman said: “It’s lovely that everybody is so interested in Hull Trains but we stand or fall by our own success or failure. We don’t have the government standing behind us ready to take the keys.
“We are a strong business, we are here for the long haul and we have strong investment. We have hit a blip but we will come back and we have the new trains on the horizon.”
The forthcoming re-modelling of King’s Cross station will present more challenges for train companies that use the station but the future remains bright for Hull Trains, with five new trains due for delivery late in 2019 a cost of £60 million and with plans to include stops at Hessle and North Ferriby, as well as an additional service to Cottingham and Beverley.
Ms Cheeseman urged her audience: “Please support us. It has been a difficult year but it’s one out of 18. We had problems earlier in the year and we sorted them out and we will do it again.
“It’s about loyalty. Our crew are the best you will ever get. They are amazing and some of the things they do for our customers are way above what people would expect. We are here to support Hull as a city and the surrounding towns and villages and we would ask them to be loyal to us during these difficult times.”
Ms Cheeseman also revealed that threats had been made on social media – but not carried out – to disrupt her presentation to members of Hull Business Improvement District (HullBID) who met at the Holiday Inn Hull Marina.
She said: “The abuse that we are receiving is not nice for anybody. Our staff read the media and social media and it’s getting beyond a joke now. Even today I had to warn the organisers that people had threatened on social media to come and disrupt the event.
“When I was first invited a couple of months ago the business was flying and we were doing really well. The last three weeks have been pretty challenging and my first instinct was to say I haven’t got the time to come because I’m working 90-hour weeks. But this is a great opportunity to right some of the wrongs that are being put out there and give you the insight into some of the challenges that we are having to deal with.
“Some people say my job is a poisoned chalice but I see it as a great responsibility that we will get to grips with, sorting out the problems that are not our fault but are our responsibility. The people who work at Hull Trains are an amazingly talented team working around the clock.”
The audience also heard from James Leeming, Senior Project Manager of Highways England, who gave an update on plans for the redevelopment of Castle Street, and from Ojay McDonald, CEO of the Association of Town and City Management.
Mr Leeming said preparation work has now started for construction of a footbridge over Castle Street and “you will see a lot of movement before Christmas” with some road closures during the evenings from week commencing Monday 5 November to allow safe access for the workers.
Mr McDonald spoke about the pace of change facing town and city centres and highlighted the opportunities presented by residential developments.
He said: “People need to be living in the town and city centres again and it doesn’t really happen to the extent that it should. The challenge is to get the mix right in town and city centres.”
Kathryn Shillito, HullBID Executive Director, said: “I am grateful to all three speakers and to our audience for combining to create a remarkable networking event. It presented important updates and insight into three key issues which are affecting businesses in Hull city centre right now.”