Caledonian Sleeper train boss accused of ignoring Scottish government lockdown rules and traveling from London in Inverness for a business trip.
Rupert Soames, CEO of Serco, which runs Scotland’s night service to London, arrived by train in Inverness on Tuesday morning.
The company says his trip is “ essential ” because he meets with key employees, but questions have been raised as to why the 60-year-old could not meet them via video chat. Meanwhile, the Scottish government transport agency was unaware of the trip.
Soames, who is the grandson of former Prime Minister Winston Chruchill, is in Scotland to meet with key workers on an “essential” trip, said a spokesman for Serco.
The trip has been heavily criticized by politicians and unions for saying that Mr. Soames’ cavalier attitude towards the rules undermines the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
And the railways, shipping and transport (RMT) union castigated the two-day trip, calling it “absolutely outrageous”.
RMT Scotland organizer Mick Hogg said: “I find this amazing. It shouldn’t happen.
“There are other management colleagues who could take care of it. Obviously, he did not listen and he seems to ignore the advice.
“Does he think that because he is a senior executive in business, he is allowed to travel?”
Mr. Soames received £ 4.5 million in 2019, including a retirement contribution of £ 255,000, for his role as Managing Director.
To Inverness Caledonian sleeper services start at London Euston station.
Rupert Soames arrived in Inverness on Tuesday in London via a Caledonian Sleeper train.
The Scottish government’s Transport Scotland agency, for which Serco is responsible, said: “We did not know this visit was taking place.”
Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Tuesday: “If you live just south of the border and you work in essential employment, this is perfectly legitimate.
“But if you come to Scotland and you are not covered by these essential objectives, you could potentially break the law.”
Questions were asked as to why Mr. Soames did not speak to the staff virtually rather than making the trip.
Scottish transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “Those who work on our buses, trains and ferries have been heroic in advancing Scotland.
“But there is a big difference between the crucial role a train driver plays in ensuring that his key colleague goes to work and a CEO on tour across the country.
“The message in Scotland remains” Stay home except for essentials “, and few will see Mr. Soames on tour as essential.
“I do not know what Rupert Soames will have learned during his visits that he could not have done by speaking virtually to the front line staff.
“This incident appears to highlight the confusion caused by the British government’s message that people should go back to work.
“The advice from the Scottish government is absolutely clear – don’t travel unless your trip is essential.
“Mr. Soames’ cavalier attitude towards the Stay at Home message can only undermine the struggle to control this pandemic.”
The Caledonian Sleeper night train from London to Scotland belongs to Serco.
Serco declined to say whether Mr. Soames would travel to other parts of Scotland during his trip.
But a spokesperson said he would observe social distance at all times.
Serco also revealed that Mr. Soames had made other visits in recent weeks to the company’s operations in the UK, including the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Center in Bedfordshire and the prisons of Thameside in the south -East London, Dovegate in Staffordshire and Doncaster.
A spokesperson said: “As he reported on Twitter, Rupert Soames visited a number of front-line workers and key workers during the crisis, essential to his role as managing director.
“He fiercely defends his decision to show solidarity with front-line workers and believes that hiding at home when others should work on trains, prisons and hospitals is not an appropriate style of leadership .
“He returns to London immediately on Wednesday, which will allow him to meet the Inverness service team and four Caledonian Sleeper train crews.
“In the meantime, he does authorized activities, job interviews and contractual visits.”