Scotrail head of marketing under threat

The job of Scotrail head of marketing Don Roberts is under threat after the appointment of First Group as preferred bidder for the UK’s largest rail franchise.

The Strategic Rail Authority has named First Group as preferred bidder to replace incumbent National Express, who employs Roberts on behalf of Scotrail. The appointment also casts doubt over Edinburgh-based advertising agency The Union’s hold on the business. Scotrail spent more than &£1m on marketing last year, with &£650,000 spent on advertising.

First Group operates a roster of agencies for its various rail and bus divisions, which includes Citigate Smarts and Connectpoint (MW August 8, 2002).

The Scotrail franchise covers 1,890 miles and stretches from the Highlands to commuter networks around Edinburgh and Glasgow and includes a sleeper services between London and Scotland. Last year it received a public subsidy of &£192m and National Express lost an estimated &£10m on the routes.

The new seven-year Scotrail franchise begins in October, and as First Group is also Scotland’s biggest bus operator it has agreed to address “behavioural undertakings” in order to go forward with its bid.

Last year National Express outbid First Group for the Greater Anglia franchise and restructured its marketing teams (MW February 12).

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