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Network Rail CEO outlines key challenges for next five years

Waterloo upgrade

Network Rail’s new chief executive has vowed to increase devolved powers to regional authorities, sort out the trans-Pennine route upgrade and ensure the rail line in South Devon is “not another Dawlish”.

During his first address to the Transport Committee, Andrew Haines also pledged to accelerate freight growth, revolutionise the incentives model and increase honesty and transparency within the rail operator, especially surrounding the costing process.

Admitting that the rail operator’s hands were somewhat tied by hangovers from CP5, Haines stressed that more stringent testing of project business cases was needed in the future.

The former Civil Aviation Authority chief executive admitted that sorting out schemes such as the trans-Pennine route upgrade were imperative in the short term. He also said that HS2 and the East-West railway would take up a big chunk of Network Rail resources.

On the trans-Pennine upgrade Haines said that the outcomes of the scheme must be made clear, and implied that electrification may not be the way to go.

“The ability to do it [the upgrade] without interrupting passengers is going to inhibit what we can do,” he said. “There are expectations about what this route should look like rather than what the final outcomes should be.

“If we want an increase of capacity on the route then maybe electrification isn’t the best solution. However, if we want to reduce the carbon footprint of the route then maybe we want electrification.”

He added: “With a limited budget and a limited amount of time to disrupt the railway, you have to ask what it is that people want most.”

While saying that the next control period will be more focussed on upgrades than new proposals, Haines confirmed that he has already held talks over two new schemes which were being planned for CP6.

He implied that one of those schemes was improving the route in South Devon, saying “we must never have another situation like we previously did in Dawlish”.

Speaking to New Civil Engineer on his last day as chief executive, Mark Carne 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”.

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