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Trainline boss departs two months after cashing in £3m in shares

Gwyn Topham
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

The boss of online rail ticket seller Trainline is stepping down, less than two months after cashing in more than £3m worth of shares.

Clare Gilmartin, who has run the business for seven years, said she was leaving to spend more time with her family.

She led Trainline into a successful London stock market flotation last year when it was valued at around £2bn, having overseen the company’s growth into international markets and offering coach tickets.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic, which initially saw passengers advised to stay off public transport, saw Trainline revenues sink to less than a quarter of 2019 levels in the first half of this year.

Its share price had recovered from a sharp plunge in March, when emergency rail contracts were announced by the UK government to replace rail franchises, but dwindled and then dropped 13% on Tuesday after Gilmartin’s departure was announced. The shares she sold in August were worth almost £900,000 less on Tuesday evening.

Analysts have predicted that the long-term shift away from business travel, as well as potential changes in ticketing, could leave the company exposed.

Gilmartin – who sold almost £16m worth of shares in the 2019 float – will be succeeded in February by Jody Ford, who recently joined the company as chief operating officer. Ford was previously the chief executive of Photobox group, which includes the Moonpig greetings card brand, having earlier worked for online auction platform eBay. Gilmartin will stay on as a senior adviser.

Gilmartin said: “The decision to step down next year is a personal one; after seven years at the helm the time has come for me to spend more time with my family.

“I am immensely proud of our progress over the last several years – including driving the advancement of digital ticketing and the customer shift online, our international expansion and our track record for meeting and exceeding expectations, particularly in our first year as a public company.”

Trainline was started in 1997, then part of the Virgin Group, and quickly became established as the leading seller of rail tickets in the UK’s post-privatisation market, with the growth of online ticketing, and as rail operators made advance tickets available at a huge discount for rail travellers. It continues to provide “white label” booking systems for several UK rail operators.

With the slump in travel this year due to coronavirus, revenues were down to £129m for the first half of 2020. In the first quarter, it issued so many refunds that its business travel division took in just 1% of the net revenues from the same period in 2019.