Irish Rail chief leaving company as train drivers reject pay deal

Departure of David Franks overshadowed by threats of industrial action at national operator

The chief executive of Iarnród Éireann, David Franks, is leaving the company in the coming months to take up a new senior position in the public transport sector in Australia.

The chief executive of Iarnród Éireann, David Franks, is leaving the company in the coming months to take up a new senior position in the public transport sector in Australia.

 

The chief executive of Iarnród Éireann, David Franks, is leaving the company as threats of industrial action ramp up from train drivers, who voted to reject a pay deal offered by the national train operator.

Mr Franks, 60, will be leaving the group in the “coming months to take up a new senior position in the public transport sector in Australia”, a statement issued on Thursday morning said. While it is not clear which organisation he is joining in Australia, he will be taking up the role of chief executive.

Frank Allen, the chairman of the company also known as Irish Rail, said: “I want to thank David for his immense contribution to Iarnród Éireann over the past five years.

“David has led Iarnród Éireann at a very challenging time for the company and has delivered significant improvements in safety, passenger growth of 24 per cent, and new customer-focused systems and processes. These changes will benefit the company for many years to come.

“The Iarnród Éireann board will commence the process of recruiting a new chief executive shortly, but I know David will remain fully committed to addressing the challenges the company faces in his remaining time with us.”

Mr Franks joined the company in 2013, before which he was a director of Keolis UK, a division of the French national railway company SNCF. He is chairman of the Institution of Railway Operators.

Challenges

In a memo to staff seen by The Irish Times, Mr Franks wrote that while the company has overcome a number of challenges during his stewardship, “opportunities and challenges remain which we must face together, and my focus until I leave will remain on working with the entire Iarnród Éireann team in delivering our service to our customers and preparing Iarnród Éireann for a secure and sustainable future.”

He said that since he joined the company, both he and staff have worked through a “most challenging financial era”. Asked whether the financial situation is still challenging, an Irish Rail spokesman said that it is, “although considerable progress has been made in addressing this”.

“The Minister is currently considering the findings of the Rail Review public consultation, which will assist in addressing the outstanding funding required,” the spokesman added.

Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, commented on Mr Franks’s resignation on Twitter, saying: “Legacy of confrontation and conflict, brought Thatcher’s failed privatisation ideology with him. Frontline workers done the heavy lifting in renaissance of Irish Rail throughout the 2000’s, long before he came along.”

In its most recent annual report for 2016, Irish Rail recorded a pretax deficit of €646,000, although that was down considerably on the €5.16 million posted in 2015. The group’s revenue increased by 5 per cent to €486 million as revenue from operations picked up. While exchequer funding dropped for the company, receipts from public service obligation contracts increased by over €12 million. Irish Rail employed 3,806 staff in 2016.