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Mark Carne urges Network Rail to ‘radically reform’ alliancing model

3048991 network rail

Outgoing Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has urged his successor to implement “radical reform” to improve the track operator’s alliancing process.

On his last official day at the helm, Carne told New Civil Engineer that the current alliancing system has been taken “as far as you can within the current industry structure”, urging incoming chief executive Andrew Haines to “aggressively embrace” new technologies to improve the network’s reliability.

He warned that unless there is significant change, the passenger experience will continue to decline.

“The performance of the railway for passengers is not good enough and has been getting worse, despite the fact that our infrastructure is more reliable than ever,” Carne told New Civil Engineer.

“This highlights the fact that the interactions with train operating companies must improve. I think we have taken alliancing about as far as you can within the current industry structure.

“Therefore more radical reform is needed to create aligned teams working seamlessly across the industry in the interest of passengers.”

He added: “The railway needs to more aggressively embrace the opportunities that new technology can bring. I hope that in five years the Digital Railway transformation will be well underway and that track and train work seamlessly together to deliver the performance passengers deserve.”

Alliancing is currently being used for the upgrade work at Waterloo and was first successfully used on the West Coast Main Line upgrade at Norton Bridge.

Looking back on his tenure, Carne said that improving safety for rail workers and delivering “glamour” project London Bridge station were among his highlights.

He also said that rebuilding the railway at Dawlish, after it was washed away in 2014, was personally satisfying as it “symbolised the ‘can do’ spirit of railway people”.

However, Carne highlighted the period of debt restructuring as a difficult period that he wished had been handled differently.

“I think that we all underestimated the profound effect that reclassification as a government body would have on Network Rail,” he said.

“With the benefit of hindsight, when the debt structure of the company was changed in 2014, we should have told politicians that the whole way of specifying and delivering projects would also have to change and that they couldn’t have everything that they thought that they had bought in CP5.

“We now understand that, but the transition was painful and drawn out.” 

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