Network Rail unveils details of"passenger first" devolution plan

As part of plans to accelerate “radical change”, Network Rail’s boss has announced a restructuring programme which will include five regions, managing directors for each, and 13 routes under them.

Following an extensive review, Network Rail says it’s making changes in how it operates. The organisation says it has listened and is fully aware it needs to be quicker to respond and less hampered by bureaucracy.

Bosses believe deeper devolution will improve passenger benefits as a result of the decisions made being closer to home. 

Changes will be brought in via a series of phases. The first phase, the formation of the new regions, is planned to take place in June following a period of consultation. Only once these changes are bedded in will Network Rail move onto the next phase.

It marks a massive change for the organisation which is being steered under the new leadership of Andrew Haines who has conceded current performance is “not good enough” and discussions since taking up the role of chief executive had highlighted areas needing improvement.

Haines said: “The need for radical change is clear. Devolution has to go much deeper to enable us to get much closer to our partners and customers and be in a much better place to put passengers first and deliver for business too. The changes I’m announcing today are designed to do just that.”

What’s changing?

  • 13 routes increased from the current eight. Each route will have responsibility for delivery of its operations, maintenance and renewals.
  • The routes will also be responsible for day to day delivery of train performance and will work closely with their local train operating partners.
  • The routes will be supported by five Network Rail regions, each led by a managing director. These will be Scotland, Wales & Western, London North Western, Southern and Eastern.
  • A number of previously centralised services and functions will also be devolved to region or route level

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, welcomed the changes being made and said the body will work to ensure a smooth transition before the next five-year funding cycle this year.

“Restructuring Network Rail, under the leadership of new chief executive Andrew Haines, is an acknowledgement that the organisation needs to become more transparent, accessible and business-focused. As far as the Railway Industry Association and its members are concerned, this ‘100-day’ plan will be a success if it creates a culture of collaboration that ensures suppliers, from world-class multinationals through to our many innovative SMEs, are seen as partners with Network Rail, delivering value rather than as just the providers of products and services.”

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