Presenter: Andrew Haines – Chief Executive Officer, Network Rail
Andrew Haines was appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Board member of Network Rail (NR) in August 2018.Prior to this he served as CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority following a wide-ranging career at senior level in the rail industry.Unfortunately, his time was limited to 45 minutes in the end but he kept his word and gave us a very interesting presentation although as a public servant there were limitations on what could be discussed in the run up to the general election. He is the first CEO of NR with prior railway experience, having started as a traffic trainee with very strong memories of the leadership of people like Gordon Pettitt (in the audience).So why return to railways? He is a passionate believer in railways delivering growth and benefit and from the way he spoke there are few who would challenge this statement.
The first element was the statement ‘Putting Passengers First’ with the right people, right structure, and right mindset. A lot of time was spent talking and listening and this uncovered some less than complimentary comments about NR which have been used to look at reshaping the regional structure and the vision – going from being confusing, unaccountable, inefficient, arrogant and not user friendly towards: on the side of passengers and freight users, efficient, dependable and easy to do business with, a place people are proud to work, instinctively recognised as leading the industry.
Some time was spent on issues specific to the Wessex area with performance showing a downward trend although this is slowing.It is not inevitable as there are clear improvements in other areas. Andrew explained some of the problems. However, it is not all bad as there has been a lot of investment, progress and activity. He then showed a graph illustrating the contrast between primary and reactionary delay on South Western Railway (SWR) noting that the discrepancy between the two is increasing. Why? The dense service plan works on paper but limits the ability to react. The point of divergence on the graph between primary and reactionary delays lines up with losing the Waterloo Integrated Control Centre so the capability of working closely together with SWR needs to be brought back.
Currently the industry structure needs: simplification, a clear profit and loss account, reducing the contractual complexities, a long term industry plan, to focus on growth for the benefit of all, and the need to decarbonise the business because of climate change both from necessity and because today’s youth will not tolerate no action.
Questions and answers were constrained by the limited time available but were equally interesting although some could not be answered for political reasons. Andrew clearly showed his determination to ‘get things done’ and the importance of looking at the evidence to take NR forward. An excellent evening, very informative and with an interesting perspective on the industry and its future.