Midlands Engine


Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail’s LNE & EM Route Programme Director, on rethinking digital technology

Toufic Machnouk, LNE & EM Route Programme Director for Network Rail, joins us to discuss Digital Railway and rethinking Network Rail’s digital approach ahead of TransCityRail Midlands 2019.

What does your role as LNE & EM Route Programme Director at Network Rail involve?

I lead our region’s digital investment strategy with a central focus on the East Coast Digital Programme. This is the national flagship digital programme, first off the blocks, in transforming how we operate the railway through digital train control technology to realise sustained long-term benefits for passengers, users, communities and stakeholders. This programme is establishing a new way of working across the industry, establishing a partnership between government, operators, infrastructure and technology providers to deliver a complex, cross-industry, benefits led programme.

In a recent RTM article you mentioned Henry Ford’s maxim: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” How are you using this in relation to the way Network Rail works with the supply chain?

Major investments are complex because they involve a diversity of human activities. Organising a complex human enterprise is hard enough as it is, and this is made even more complex through the industry and contracting mechanisms that exist already and are employed in common investment programmes. It takes great leadership to establish deep collaboration that gets the best out of the organisations involved.  A key principle for investment programmes is to deploy the model which is most appropriate for the objectives, risk, and where the value resides for a given enterprise.

In the case of digital technology, we have to completely rethink how we approach this.The nature of technology necessitates completely different approach to the norm, one that is an outcomes based, whole of life partnership approach which brings the user and the provider of value much closer together to get the best results. It has to be a user centric approach and one that brings all the beneficiary’s together in shared ownership over the long-term results. We simply cannot invest in technology the way we replace bridges, and if we try to make it fit we will get mediocre results. The only way to get great results is to rethink the approach, taking inspiration from across the world, and this is exactly what we are doing on our programme.

Why do you think it is important for leaders to come together at TCR Midlands?

The TCR event brings a diversity of leaders from industry and regional communities together, from government to SMEs. TCR provides a unique, regionally focused platform for dialogue and networking with opportunities to hear from and engage with leaders and influencers.

Why have you got involved with TCR Midlands?

TCR is a great forum to share our vision for a railway that works better for people and the work we are doing to realise it.

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