Grayling mandates joint rail management teams to improve services

6 Dec 16

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has today set out reform plans for the rail network that will see state-owned Network Rail work more closely with train operators under new franchise agreements.

Grayling said that he wanted closer industry cooperation in order to deliver better services for passengers.

He said that new franchises with improved cooperation between the train operators and the infrastructure managers would be let from 2018, starting on the South Eastern and East Midlands lines. These will be expected to include integrated operating teams.

Under the plans, a private operator could also run the proposed East West rail line between Oxford and Cambridge.

Grayling said the reform was needed for the railways to adapt to the growth that they have already experienced, and that which lies ahead.

“We want to see closer working across the industry, to resolve problems more quickly – putting the needs of the passenger first. When things go wrong, a lack of a joined up approach can make things much worse for the passenger,” he said.

“I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways. Our railway is much better run by one joined up team of people. They don’t have to work for the same company. They do have to work in the same team.”

A so-called deep alliance between Network Rail and South West Trains was pared back in June 2015, just over three years after being introduced in April 2012. This had seen NR scrap the post of route managing director and the alliance headed up by SWT managing director Tim Shoveller. However, this post was reintroduced after the agreement was “re-shaped to prioritise areas that deliver most for passengers”. A similar alliance also exists in Scotland.

The East West rail scheme was critical to the government’s economic development plans and for the construction of housing along the route, Grayling said. A new organisation will design, build and operate the line, and will now work with the National Infrastructure Commission as it plans the project.

Responding to the announcements, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said he strongly welcomed the plans to bring more joined up working within the industry.

“We have already devolved Network Rail into route-based businesses closer to customers, and the proposals announced today will build on the alliances we have created between these route businesses and train operators. We also strongly believe there should be better alignment of incentives between train companies and Network Rail. That is why we now align the performance incentives for all of Network Rail’s 35,000 staff, around targets agreed jointly with train operators. But more needs to be done across the industry,” he said.

“Network Rail’s published transformation plan is moving us to being a public sector body that acts like a private business, with a clear focus on what customers want.”

He also backed the announcement of East West Rail, adding that “competition must be at the heart of any organisation that wants to behave like a private sector business”.

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