Network Rail creates MD post to act as ‘railway upgrade tsar for the North’
7 October 2016 • Author: Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, European Railway Review
Network Rail has confirmed it will appoint a new managing director for its northern portfolio who will oversee the railway upgrade plan in the north of England.
Network Rail has revealed it will be creating several new senior leadership roles to strengthen customer focus and business performance. Included within the changes will be the appointment of a new managing director for its northern portfolio. The post holder will join-up future rail expansion, modernisation and investment across the North and deliver projects where Transport for the North (TfN) are/will be the funder.
Announcing the new MD, Mark Carne, chief executive, said: “We are appointing a ‘railway upgrade tsar for the North’. This new role will ensure a clear focus on future rail expansion, modernisation and investment across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse. Better railways are a great driver for delivering more jobs, housing and economic growth.”
“Building on the record investment in recent years, this person will bring together the needs of passengers, train operators and regional bodies to ensure a truly integrated rail strategy to join up the great cities of the North.”
Network rail’s new structure ‘supports the devolution agenda’
In addition to the northern managing director, Network Rail will create a new chief operating officer (COO) in each of Network Rail’s route businesses in England & Wales who will exclusively focus on delivering a safe, reliable and punctual railway.
Under the COO, maintenance and operations will be split into their respective disciplines with a new route head of operations and a new route head of maintenance.
In addition, a new lead for business development will be added to each route who will seek to attract private capital and third-party funding for rail improvements across their respective region.
Network Rail has also confirmed that project sponsorship in the routes will be strengthened with a route project sponsorship director who will enable more robust specification and management of enhancements.
Commenting on the structural changes, Chris Grayling, secretary of state for transport, said: “Passengers are set to benefit from huge levels of investment in our railway across the north. I welcome the focus that Network Rail is bringing to future investment in the north.”
Network Rail believes the new structure ‘supports the devolution agenda whilst ensuring the holistic network-wide benefits of a railway system are maintained.’ The company will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for the North (TfN) on the details of this newly established working relationship.
David Brown, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: “The announcement of this important role which will lead a northern investment organisation within Network Rail and is a major step forward for the North. It provides both focus and empowerment. It is a pioneering move. We welcome this news and look forward to Network Rail working in close collaboration with both Transport for the North and Rail North as, together, we work on delivering transformational change benefitting passengers, freight operators and the economy.”
Reacting to the announcement, Phil Whittingham, Managing Director, Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “We are currently enjoying the best punctuality performance on the west coast for a decade thanks to the efforts of the combined management teams of Virgin Trains and Network Rail London North Western route. This new role ensures that key operational relationship and structure remains in place while providing focus and support for all our investment plans for the future.”
Responding to Network Rail’s announcement it has created the new role of Managing Director, Northern Portfolio but has not adopted the Northern Route approach recommended by Transport for the North (TfN) and Rail North, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee Cllr Keith Wakefield said: “With the successes of Rail North and formation of Transport for the North, both made possible by transport authorities and City Regions across the north working together, it is disappointing that Network Rail has missed an opportunity to build upon this devolutionary agenda.
“Taking a Northern Route approach would have ensured that Network Rails objectives could be better aligned with Transport for the North’s clear mandate to manage and enhance the north of England’s railways brief.
“However, I do welcome the fact that by creating the new role of Northern Portfolio Managing Director, Network Rail is providing a focus for its investments in the North. This is urgent work and I would like to see someone appointed on an interim basis as soon as possible to lead it while the recruitment process is taking place.
“We would then be in a position to start identifying the work and much-needed investment required.”