Network Rail devolution should be ‘deeper and faster’

 

nicolashawNicola Shaw

 

The Shaw review into the future shape and financing of Network Rail has recommended that the government and the rail industry should start work immediately on a series of reforms to improve customer service and value for money.

They include “deeper and faster” devolution of responsibility from Network Rail to its routes than is currently planned; the government devising a long term 30-year vision for the railway to set a context for political decision making; a new Network Rail route management organisation for the north of England; new arrangements to promote more effective working relationships in the industry with greater focus on customers’ priorities; and new ways of bringing private sector finance to the railway.

The report commissioned by the government from HS1 chief executive Nicola Shaw also rules out full privatisation of Network Rail. However, it recommends that the government should examine the case for letting 20-30 year concessions to the private sector to operate and maintain sections of the railway. It suggests letting concessions “would yield benefits not only in terms of the impact on the public purse, but also a different approach to management of the assets, innovation, efficiency and a focus on cost management”. Shaw considers that the two most viable concessions at present are likely to be the Anglia and Wessex routes.

The report also recommends that the delivery of infrastructure enhancement projects should be opened up to competitive bids from the private sector. Further measures to promote competition and efficiency include a recommendation that Network Rail should not receive a single funding settlement in the future. Instead separate funding allowances would be awarded to each of its nine routes.

“If these recommendations are to be a success, work on implementation should start immediately, and involve all players,” Shaw’s report concludes.

In particular it calls for key structural reforms, especially the new North route, greater devolution of powers to Network Rail routes and separate regulatory settlements for the routes to be in place by 2019.

 

The full story appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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