Posted 18th March 2015 | No Comments

DfT still 'confident' about Network Rail board

THE Department for Transport has said it remains 'confident' in the chairman and chief executive of Network Rail, following reports that there are high-level concerns about the management of Network Rail and the possibility of DfT intervention.

These concerns are said to have been worsened by the Christmas engineering overruns at Paddington and King's Cross, which disrupted the journeys of some 115,000 people.

Chief executive Mark Carne admitted in a speech last month that "Despite the many achievements of the past, sometimes we let passengers down. I don’t think that’s acceptable, or just a fact of life. And I understand their frustration – and their anger, which is often directed at our TOC colleagues, when things go wrong. They, passengers and TOCs, should be able to rely on us.”

Mr Carne has been in post for just over a year, and since his appointment he has mounted a major safety drive. Writing in Railnews last October, he said: "We have not had a passenger fatality from a train accident since the Grayrigg derailment in February 2007.

"This helps to explain why, from a passenger's perspective, we are Europe's safest railway. Something we should all be rightly proud of. We must also ensure we remain ever vigilant, as it can take one momentary lapse for tragedy to strike and all of our good work to be undone.

“My message here is clear and stark – if you insist on working unsafely, then you have no future role at Network Rail.”

However, unconfirmed reports today have claimed that it is the roles of Mr Carne and his chairman Richard Parry-Jones which are coming under scrutiny by the Network Rail Shareholder Executive.

As NR is now a government body in the public sector, the transport secretary can also exercise his right to appoint a 'special director' to the main Network Rail board, who would be expected to monitor the company's management strategy from the point of view of the Department for Transport.

The DfT said it was still 'confident'. A spokesman added: "A review of Network Rail’s board, including the option of appointing a special director, has been conducted by the Shareholder Executive. It is for the Secretary of State to consider whether any steps should be taken in light of its findings.”