Arnott replaces Deborah Pester, who remained with Connex when it lost its south-eastern franchise last November. The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) took over from Connex on 9 November after passengers were plagued by late-running and overcrowded trains.
Arnott, who was media relations manager at the RAC, takes up the role on 10 May. She will head a team of 38, including the 30-strong customer call centre for the operator of Kent, East Sussex and South London services.
Her responsibilities comprise public affairs and internal and external communications, the SET website and the company’s customer magazine Get SET.
A shortlist of bidders are vying to take over operation of SET, created last year as an SRA subsidiary, in 2005. But according to SET’s press office, a number of initiatives, including a new fleet of trains, need to be explained through various channels.
SET has about 3,000 employees but inherited a 20 per cent shortfall in staff from Connex. A recruitment campaign started last November is the biggest internal comms challenge, according to a SET spokeswoman. Its external relations work includes supplying travel bulletins to BBC Radio Kent every half hour.
The spokeswoman said SET maintains dialogue with stakeholders and transport groups such as the Rail Passengers Council and Committees, the London Transport Users’ Committee and local councils.
RAC head of PR Rebecca Bell said that after the January appointment of Neil Lovell as director of corporate comms, the RAC had reassessed Arnott’s role and will replace her with a senior consumer media relations manager.