Train operating company First Great Western has called in Barclay Stratton to help dispel its reputation for a lack of safety.
A train belonging to the company - a subsidiary of First Group - was one of the two involved in the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster which claimed more than 30 lives in October 1999. First Great Western has struggled to repair its image since then, despite running a sizeable in-house PR department and employing an external PR agency in Cardiff.
That agency, Equinox PR, will continue to work for First Great Western on PR surrounding train launches. The company's trains run on the route from Paddington in London to Penzance, Cornwall.
The Barclay Stratton brief will be headed by account manager Amanda Gunner and overseen by MD Jenny Thomas. They report to Elaine Wilde, PR manager at the train operator, who will retain overall responsibility for PR and issues management.
Wilde said she had tasked the agency with regaining consumer confidence through 'excellence in safety, performance and customer service'.
'Given the current railway environment it is a challenge to do good news communications for an operating company, but it is a challenge we relish,' said Gunner.
The brief, which began this month, will see a five-strong Barclay Stratton team target consumers and other opinion-formers with what it hopes to be 'good news' about the client.
- Derek Plews, press secretary to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, is understood to have resigned to take up a post as communications director at the Association of Train Operating Companies.
Plews will report to director-general George Muir and replaces Elizabeth Hayward.