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Hendy to provide tough love for TOCs and Network Rail execs

Train operators and Network Rail executives could be in for some tough love as the man who described London’s suburban rail services as “shit” and compared their conductors to the Gestapo takes charge of the UK’s rail infrastructure.

As RTM reported yesterday, Sir Peter Hendy has been appointed the new chairman of Network Rail by Patrick McLoughlin. The current TfL commissioner replaces Richard Parry-Jones, who is taking the fall for the recent poor performance of the company, including a series of missed targets and cost overruns.

Hendy is known for his frank and honest style and recently applied that to an assessment of the national rail network in London.

In an interview with Management Today, he compared how TfL and different suburban rail operators deal with customers: “People hate the suburban rail service, they hate it. If you make a mistake on your Oyster Card on the Tube, we'll refund it. On South West Trains, they'll fine you. That's a big philosophical difference.”

Hendy picked out one unfortunate operator for some special loathing: “On Southeastern the trains are like the Wild West. They are shit, awful. And then every now and then some people who look like the Gestapo get on and fine everyone they can. It doesn't improve your day, does it?”

Hendy later apologised to Southeastern by letter. He wrote: “Passion is no excuse for insult. Sorry.”

Now that he is in charge of the national rail infrastructure that Southeastern and other operators use, it is likely they will face the brunt of that passion again – though perhaps in private rather than in print.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne may also have cause to worry with Hendy in the chair. While Hendy thinks Carne is a “nice bloke”, he did not sound overly impressed with his job performance so far. “Take Network Rail,' he said in the same MT interview. “I take no pleasure in saying this, but it's under fire at the moment. The chief exec is a nice bloke and he has this idea about the digital railway and getting the most out of the railway in the next 30 years – but no-one is listening because they can't fix London Bridge.”

A seismic shift in Network Rail was announced yesterday as its chair was replaced and several of its flagship projects were indefinitely postponed, but with Hendy now on top more changes may still be to come.

(Image source: Stefan Rousseau / PA)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Neil Palmer   26/06/2015 at 16:43

To be accurate Hendy didn't compare Southeastern's conductors to the Gestapo, he was referring to ticket inspectors.

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