Network Rail has joined forces with regional train companies Great Western Railway (GWR) and Heathrow Express, to create a new joint supervisory board to drive improvements, in the latest stage of the companies’ commitment to working closer together to improve passenger experience.
The Western Route Supervisory Board comprises of the managing directors of Network Rail Western Route, GWR and Heathrow Express; Nina Howe, from passenger watchdog Transport Focus and will be independently chaired by experienced former government rail advisor Dick Fearn (pictured).
As independent chair Dick Fearn, who has 43 years’ experience in the rail industry, including on key parts of the Great Western route, will work with the leadership teams at Network Rail, GWR and Heathrow Express to help them further align action plans, improve joint planning and drive targets that are centred on improving the passenger experience. The formation of this new joint board has been made to bring ‘track and train’ operations and long term planning closer together and minimise unnecessary impacts on rail users.
Dick Fearn was most recently chief executive of Iarnrod Eireann/Irish Rail and a rail advisor to the UK Government. His earlier roles include divisional director at British Rail Network South East, managing director at The South Eastern Train Company and zone director for Railtrack’s Midlands and North West divisions.
The board will meet every four weeks with the first meeting set to take place in April.
Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “This is excellent news. Delivering major improvements on our busy network is a tough task. Whether it’s planning essential repairs, improving services, or dealing quickly with problems, it’s much better when it’s done by one joined up team of people. Our railways are crucial to our economic future. While the solutions may differ in their models for each area, the outcome will be the same – a railway that is predominantly run by an integrated local team of people with a commitment to the smooth operation of their routes.“
Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “Building on our existing alliance with GWR, we are committed to more improvements to the way we work with both GWR and Heathrow Express.
“We can improve day-to-day operational performance for passengers much further by working closer together as well as bring long term planning for track and trains together to reduce and minimise as much as possible potential disruption as we upgrade the rail network across the region.”
Mark Hopwood, managing director at GWR, said: “We have long recognised the importance that close working across the rail industry has on improving the service we give customers.
“We are in the midst of the biggest track and fleet upgrade in a generation on the Great Western network, and customers expect us to deliver these passenger benefits together. Today’s news will build on GWR’s ongoing close working arrangements with Network Rail, and will embed our aligned approach and create greater focus on how our planned customer improvements are successfully delivered."
Fraser Brown, director for Heathrow Express, said: “I am pleased to be formalising our working relationship with Network Rail and Great Western Railway. Our goal is to put our customers first, and provide a safe and excellent service that matches the increasing demand on our railway. We operate on a busy patch, and it’s never been more important that we collaborate to ensure we all achieve our objectives. We want customers to feel the benefit of the work Network Rail is doing to modernise the railway so it’s fit for today and the future.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “I am delighted that Transport Focus is providing the voice of the passenger on the new supervisory board. We have a wealth of experience to bring to help Network Rail stay focused on delivering what rail passengers want.”
About Network Rail
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.