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Passengers benefit as South West Trains and Network Rail form alliance

Passengers benefit as South West Trains and Network Rail form alliance

Train company South West Trains and infrastructure operator Network Rail announced the launch of a new alliance with the aim of delivering better rail services in the south and south-west of England.

A single senior joint management team now has responsibility for both trains and track on the route operating out of London Waterloo in a first for the UK rail industry.

It is aiming to cut delays for passengers, provide better customer service, deliver more effective management of disruption, and improve the efficiency of the railway through more collaborative working and better decision-making. The new alliance is also expected to benefit rail freight operators who use the Wessex route.

The alliance, which officially went live on 29 April, is a first for the UK rail industry and has been approved by the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation. The alliance is planned to run until 4 February 2017, the expiry date of the South West Trains franchise agreement.

The creation of the alliance follows the publication of the McNulty Report last year, which recommended a package of measures to reduce inefficiencies in the UK rail system. It also delivers a key element of the Government’s Rail Command Paper, issued in March 2012, which called for closer co-operation between operations and infrastructure.


The alliance also builds on the existing joint working between South West Trains and Network Rail through the Wessex Integrated Control Centre at London Waterloo, which co-ordinates the operational response to incidents on the route, as well as recent moves by Network Rail to devolve operational responsibility to regional units.

Sir Brian Souter, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, the parent company of South West Trains, said: “This new model is a real opportunity to deliver change that will benefit both passengers and taxpayers and support our objective of growing the railway. Safety will continue to be our top priority and will remain at the core of the way we run the railway. By working more closely with Network Rail than ever before, and with aligned incentives, we can deliver a more customer-focused and more efficient railway for the long-term.”

David Higgins, chief executive, Network Rail, said: “This marks a new phase in the evolution of Network Rail as we continue to push decision making away from the centre, empowering our front-line managers to run the railway more effectively, and forging closer working relationships with our customers, the train operators. Network Rail will continue to focus on delivering our obligations to all parties, protecting the interests of all customers whilst maintaining the seamless operation of the whole network.”

Under the alliance, the combined management team will consider the “whole railway” in making decisions, resulting in a range of improvements for passengers and employees:

  More effective station management: a single management team for London Waterloo, the UK’s busiest railway station with more 90 million passengers a year
  Better planning of track maintenance work: smarter train planning and improved access to provide more time for renewals, leading to a more reliable and punctual train service
  Improved response to disruption: a single team dealing with operational incidents on the network through the Wessex Integrated Control Centre
  Faster decision-making: quicker resolution of issues through joint responsibility for work at stations
  Aligned objectives and incentives: employees from both organisations working towards common goals with consistent incentives to improve performance
  Building skills: cross-functional development opportunities for employees, enhancing skills and providing wider job experience
  Pooled resources: opportunities to share facilities, helping with winter preparations and providing a more efficient response to train service disruption
  Operational efficiencies: joint training, communications and occupational health processes

The alliance senior management team will be headed by Tim Shoveller. Tim began his career working as a train guard at Guildford, and his 20-year railway career has included senior management positions at Virgin Trains and Eurostar. More recently, he headed up the East Midlands Trains franchise for four years, before moving onto become managing director of South West Trains in January 2012.

Tim Shoveller added: “The creation of this joint alliance provides a real opportunity to deliver an even better service for our passengers, and we have already had a very positive response to this new way of working. Our focus now will be on leading and supporting our 6,000 employees and managers who play a critical role in the delivery of our train services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Together we will develop a collaborative way of working through the alliance and deliver a great train service for our passengers.”

The senior management team has more than 200 years’ experience in the UK rail industry covering train service delivery, rail infrastructure management and train fleet manufacturing and includes:

  Managing director – Tim Shoveller
  Infrastructure director – Jim Morgan
  Operations director – Mark Steward
  Fleet director - Christian Roth
  Safety & assurance director – Brian Cook
  Human resources director – Kelly Barlow
  Commercial director – Sam McCarthy
  Customer service director – Jake Kelly
  Finance director – Andy West

A governance board, with equal representation from both organisations, will oversee the operation of the alliance and take major business decisions. Arrangements are in place to ensure the interests of other passenger rail companies and freight operators are protected. Both companies retain their own identities and staff. There are no changes to terms and conditions of employment or collective bargaining agreements with recognised trade unions.