On Monday 14 November, full control of the rail network along the London North Eastern route (LNE) will be devolved from London to York. A new route managing director and his team will take on responsibility for hundreds of miles of railway connecting towns and cities.
The change, part of a national programme of devolution by Network Rail, will give the team in York greater decision-making authority, allowing them to act more quickly in the best interests of rail users on one of Britain’s busiest rail routes and target investment where it is needed most.
Phil Verster, previously deputy CEO and chief engineer at Irish Rail takes up the role of route managing director for LNE. He explains: “This is a significant change for the way we manage the railway. Instead of segregated teams reporting to various head office functions on operations, electrification, signalling, track and structures, we will now have local autonomy and a local focus.
“We are already running a record number of services getting more passengers to their destinations and moving more freight than ever. However, we need to do this more consistently and with greater responsiveness to train and freight operators. Specifically, we need to improve the performance of our railway so that even more trains arrive on time. With the new structure we will have the chance to build on previous successes while also improving our operations to meet the demands of our customers and passengers.”
Phil will be responsible for all aspects of the rail infrastructure on LNE covering the day-to-day operation of the network, essential maintenance and asset management as well as having the power to direct what is spent and where to renew and enhance the railway.
Devolution is a central part of Network Rail’s plans to deliver continued efficiency savings, with a target to cut the cost of running Britain’s railway by more than £5bn between 2009 and 2014. From Monday, the LNE route will become a separate business unit within Network Rail with its own set of accounts. This will allow greater benchmarking of financial performance and efficiency between the routes as best practice is shared across the business.
The changes are in line with the recommendations of the McNulty report* which said savings of up to £1bn a year could be made by continued closer working between Network Rail and the train companies. The newly devolved route team will work with passenger and freight operators to develop a route plan which will deliver on local priorities.
Phil continues: “I know the team on LNE already have strong relationships with our customers and I look forward to developing those and embedding partnership approaches at the heart of everything we do.
“We are setting ourselves tough targets in order to deliver the high standards of performance passengers demand. I am committed to improve our ways of working and the performance of our assets, while also developing plans to mitigate the impact of external issues that are outside our direct control – such as extreme weather and the continuing disruption caused by cable theft.”
Network Rail’s newly devolved structure will see the ten route teams supported by a slimmer, more strategic central organisation. This will enable the routes to continue to benefit from Network Rail’s economies of scale and maintain clear national standards to support safety and performance. A new national centre in Milton Keynes, which opens in summer 2012, will provide state-of-the-art facilities for more than 3,000 people, bringing together national functions from all over Britain to support the route teams and their customers.
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