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Latest Railtrack shake up aims for closer links with train operators


RAILTRACK IS set to realign itself more closely with train operators, replacing its present seven zone set up with more, smaller 'operational units'.

The change is expected to follow the departure last week of chief operational officer Johnson Cox. Chief executive Steve Marshall has assumed Cox's operational responsibilities.

Industry insiders believe that Railtrack's seven zones will split into about 14 operational units.

These will then link more closely with regional train operating companies, making a more cooperative arrangement than the present confrontational one.

This is expected to allow staff from the operators to work more closely with Railtrack. Many of these are ex-British Rail, with long standing local experience.

It is also believed that engineering staff from Railtrack headquarters will be spread among the new units.

But the latest round of restructuring could be tricky given the amount of upheaval that has taken place at the track authority over the last two years.

Engineers told NCE that aligning Railtrack's new mini-zones to train operators could be difficult in areas with more than one operator.

Cox is thought to have left Railtrack after failing to improve the operation of the railway since he joined from utility company Kelda 11 months ago.

His exit follows the appointment of new chairman John Robinson, and the departure last month of major projects director Simon Murray (NCE 21 June).

Robinson is said to be leaving staff under no illusions that instant improvements were needed, with Railtrack and the government under pressure to improve performance.

The new structure, coupled with news that transport secretary Stephen Byers is making short term operator franchise extensions instead of awarding longer franchises, is aimed at getting quick results.

It is understood that Robinson wants to remove layers of bureaucracy from Railtrack head office and get more resources to the 'coal face' at zone level. This will shift more responsibility to local level, and shorten the links to chief executive Steve Marshall.

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