Chris Grayling's rail shake-up: What will it actually mean for Network Rail?

Rebecca Smith
Grayling wants to switch up the nation's railways
Grayling wants to switch up the nation's railways (Source: Getty)

Chris Grayling wants to revamp how the nation's rail networks operate, but just what are his proposals and what will it mean for Network Rail?

Deeper alliancing

He wants each rail franchise to be run by joint management teams, including representatives from the train operating firm and Network Rail. These changes will commence when each franchise is renewed, starting with Southeastern and the East Midlands franchises in 2018.

The main change Grayling wants to see is track and train companies working more closely together; he said it wasn’t about privatising Network Rail but developing partnership alliances.

Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne said the plan will “bring more joined-up working within the industry”.

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"They're not talking about handing over maintenance of the network to various train operating companies, which would be impossible," said Nigel Harris, managing editor at Rail magazine.

Harris pointed to similar cases in Scotland, such as when train operator ScotRail worked with Network Rail to electrify the Paisley Canal line in Glasgow, and by forming an alliance, drove down costs substantially.

Harris added: “Is it going to work? Well, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. If you’ve got the operator and the track owner working together for the common good, it should work, and if you’ve got reasonable people there.”

East West Rail

Separately, Grayling is also looking at reopening the link from Oxford to Cambridge and in doing so, is establishing East West Rail as a new organisation "to accelerate the permissions needed to reopen the route, and to secure private sector involvement to design, build and operate the route as an integrated organisation".

It will be established in the new New Year and chaired by former chief executive of Chiltern Rail, Rob Brighouse. Grayling essentially wants something like Crossrail, which has been very successful in delivering on time and on budget.

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