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Network Rail pushes power to regions

Network Rail this week announced sweeping plans to split itself into devolved business units run by regionally-based managing directors.

Network Rail wants to devolve more power, responsibility and accountability to the new business units which include transferring responsibility from headquarters to route managing directors.

Scotland and Wessex routes will be the first to make the change, starting in April. Other routes are expected to follow suit if successful.

Functions expected to be transferred include planning and delivering maintenance, renewals, enhancements, asset management and safety.

“Network Rail has saved money and transformed the railway through central control but to make further improvements in all areas we now need to increase responsiveness at a local level,” said Network Rail chief executive David Higgins.

“Each new route managing director will, in effect, be running their own infrastructure railway business with significant annual turnover and resources.”

Advertisements for route managing directors have been published, promising a “significant six figure salary”.

Each of the devolved businesses will have around 3,000 staff, and will report to Network Rail operations and customer services director Robin Gisby.

The advertisements state that rail industry knowledge “is not a requirement”.

The Department for Transport said that it welcomed the initiative, seen as a pre-emptive strike ahead of the McNulty value for money study which is expected to be highly critical of current arrangements.

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