ATOC picks Funnell for comms role

The Association of Train Operating Companies has recruited Edward Funnell as communications director.

Funnell, formerly a director of Rowland Communications, starts on 5 September in the ATOC post, which has been vacant since the departure of Derek Plews to the Ministry of Defence last year .

Funnell said he is to review PR efforts but this is not likely to lead to hiring additional agency support.

ATOC currently has one agency, The Waterfront Partnership, which handles PA.

Funnell said the key challenge will be to reverse the negative public perception of the train companies: 'Perception has lagged behind the day-to-day reality. I'm joining at a time when they (train companies) are working very hard to develop a positive perception.'

Figures from the Rail Passengers Council released last month show that the number of complaints made by passengers has risen by as much as a third in some areas last year. In southern England complaints regarding fares and ticketing rose by 146 per cent.

ATOC's recent 'It's time to return' campaign, designed to reverse negative perception, arguably backfired when it attracted criticism by passenger groups and the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA said one phrase used on posters that 'fast and frequent services are back across the network' was misleading as this was not the case nationwide.

Funnell declined to comment on that campaign, dismissing it as 'historic'.

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