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Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, outlines the company's future vision

The chief executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines, outlines his vision for the railway's infrastructure manager and gives an overview of its reorganisation.

Network Rail is changing into an organisation that puts passengers and freight users first. That, in a nutshell, is my vision for this organisation. We simply have to deliver a better, more reliable train service for the millions of people who use the railway, and the freight users who rely on us to move 200,000 tonnes of goods across the country every day.

To help drive up performance, we have restructured into 13 routes, supported by five new regions. Having smaller routes means they’ll be closer to the passengers they’re serving, be able to work more closely with freight and train operators and have the power to make the decisions they need to improve reliability.

We’ve just been through a rigorous recruitment process for the five regional directors who will act as the single point of accountability for the railway in their respective regions. Alex Hynes (Scotland), Rob McIntosh (Eastern), John Halsall (Southern), Mark Langman (Wales and Western) and Tim Shoveller (North West and Central) took up their new positions on 24 June.

READ MORE: Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

They are already engaged in appointing their route directors and shaping the teams that will support them.  Although disappointed we were unable to secure a more diverse field of candidates – something my leadership team and I are more determined than ever to address – the expertise of these appointments is an important step to delivering a better experience for passengers and freight users.

Having the right people in the right place in our organisation will help us create strong, capable and regional businesses with the accountability, and crucially the tools, to make local decisions and deliver for our customers. I am confident that deepening devolution will bring greater autonomy and deliver greater efficiency for the taxpayer.

 Andrew Haines

However, it would be foolish to believe that changing our organisational structure alone would be enough to turn performance around. While engineering, projects and maintenance are key parts of what we do, we are a service organisation first and foremost. This means changing the way we work and how we engage with each other and our stakeholders. Every Network Rail employee should have the passenger at the front of their mind.

Some of the changes we are making will take time to bed in, but equally there are steps we are already taking to improve the way we think and behave as an organisation. For example, the industry has collectively shifted to on-time measurement which is ‘to the minute’ as the primary method of measuring punctuality.

This replaces the Public Performance Measure (PPM), which considers a train to be ‘on time’ if it reaches its final destination within five or 10 minutes for short and long-distance services respectively – ignoring the fact that passengers expect to reach their destination at the time they were promised when they bought the ticket.

READ MORE: New Network Rail boss tells MPs he will put passengers’ interests first

This new performance measure showed 70.8% of trains arrived at their stops on time in the first period of 2019/20 – the best period in more than five years, but still not good enough. While we can’t claim to have fixed performance overnight – and I am clear that we’ve got a long way to go – it does represent a promising start to Control Period 6 and shows we can deliver improved train performance.

Greater reliability is crucial with demand for rail rising at a faster pace than at any time since the 1820s. While this presents a challenge for future capacity, what a challenge it is to have! More people want to use the railway, whether it’s to get to work, visit friends and family or travel for holidays.

The rail industry faces understandable scrutiny. The Williams Review is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change for the better. But we can’t afford to wait for the outcome – policy takes time to be implemented – that’s why we have already started working more closely with our train and freight operator colleagues. Our priority is to provide the safe, reliable and punctual service that passengers rightly demand and expect.


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