National Express franchise win sparks marketing rejig

National Express Group, the travel operator, is restructuring its marketing operations following its acquisition of the East Coast Mainline rail franchise relinquished by GNER last week.

National Express East Coast, which is now operating the London to Edinburgh train route, is splitting the marketing team from its customer operations. Michelle Drage, the commercial director with responsibility for both teams, is leaving at the end January. It is not thought that she has a job to go to.

It has appointed Rachel Dawson, who joins from National Express and was previously marketing director of Midland Mainline, to the new role of sales and marketing director. It has also appointed Helen Thornton, former human resources director of GNER, to head the new customer team.

GNER chief executive Jonathan Metcalfe has already left the train operating company, which is now being led by National Express head of trains David Franks.

Dawson has held a variety of marketing roles in the leisure and travel industry including Travelodge and budget airline easyJet.

The operator says her skills will help to drive revenue growth, which is “so important to the success of the new franchise”.

Drage joined GNER as customer services director in 2005, from First Choice Airways where she had the same role.

Last year, she oversaw a review of GNER’s advertising and appointed CDP to the account in April this year after a four-way pitch. It is not clear if the changes will affect the agency.

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