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Railtrack keeps zones to regain network control


RAILTRACK HAS scrapped plans to dissolve its zonal structure and create up to 18 'operating units'.

It will instead now push ahead with 'major changes' to the zones in an attempt to regain engineering control over the network.

The change of strategy comes just two weeks before Lord Cullen delivers the long awaited second part to his report on the state of the industry. Part one, covering the Paddington crash, was published in June. The strategy shift also follows the departure of chief operating officer Johnson Cox, who favoured centrally controlled units.

But since chief executive Steve Marshall took over Cox's duties, he has opted to retain the zone structure. Railtrack will now reinforce the set-up with more staff, most likely transferred from its London headquarters.

However, Railtrack has decided to scrap its London North Eastern and East Anglian zones and recreate the former Eastern Region to leave just six zones.

In the Southern zone three general managers will be appointed in each area with a separate maintenance contract.

This will be the template for changes in the other regions, the next being the new Eastern zone in November.

The changes form part of Railtrack's engineering strategy, due out next month. It is expected that it will also announce a more hands-on approach to track inspections.

The engineering strategy will follow publication of the Cullen report part two on 20 September.

Among other issues, this will recommend how Railtrack should deal with its subcontractors.

Railtrack has already set a meeting in October to discuss findings with suppliers.

The report is also expected to focus on the technical competence of staff. Railway Safety, the Railtrack independent safety body, has already appointed consultant AD Little to report on current trackwork safety and competance.

Lord Cullen is also expected to recommend a limit on contractors' working hours.

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