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Profile Sir Philip Beck Chairman of Railtrack


After a serious search for a new chairman from outside the business, Railtrack decided last week that it already had the ideal candidate on board.

Sir Philip Beck, former chairman of Mowlem and currently a Railtrack non-executive director, is to take over from Sir Bob Horton as Railtrack chairman in July.

There is much logic to Railtrack's decision. The company stands or falls in the next few years on its successful completion of a series of high profile, complex infrastructure projects. Its ability to deal productively with its suppliers will be crucial.

Railtrack has already brought in civil engineer Simon Murray as infrastructure director to beef up its project management skills at the top.

Now it has a chairman with years of contracting experience to call on. Beck spent almost all his working life as a contractor, following his father into the top job of chairman of Mowlem.

He was known at Mowlem for his entrepreneurial abilities. And under his leadership the company was one of the forerunners in the development of private finance for public infrastructure (NCE last week).

Railtrack is at a stage in its development when it needs people that can help it make changes in the way it operates. According to one former colleague, Beck seems to fit the bill. He describes Beck as 'inventive, innovative, a man that can make things happen'.

Beck, now 64, was educated at Ampleforth and Cambridge.

While that may be good for dealing with civil servants, there is some debate in the rail industry as to how well he is going to get on with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a man not known for buddying up with the country's patricians. 'They are like chalk and cheese. Perhaps he won't have to deal with him directly,' one ex-Mowlem employee suggests.

This is entirely possible. Beck's part-time non-executive role allows Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett to underline his position as the man running the business.

Beck's acknowledged charm will undoubtedly be brought to bear on the other key player in the rail industry at the moment, the Strategic Rail Authority's tough new chairman and Sir Alastair Morton.

In respect of the SRA and Morton, said NCE's source, the biggest advantage for Beck and Railtrack is that 'Philip was not the managing director of a channel tunnel contractor.'

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