Arriva, Go-Ahead and National Express denied punitive powers, including the right to withhold payments, in final Shaw review recommendations

 

network_railGo-Ahead said concentrating on enhancements left a ‘capability drain’ in core areas

 

The Shaw review’s proposals to create a more effective working relationship between train operators and Network Rail fell short of providing operators with new powers that several major transport groups argued for.

The review’s final recommendations included establishing new means for operators to influence and monitor the company (PT 131). However, responses to the Shaw review consultation, published by the Department for Transport, show that Go-Ahead, Arriva and National Express called for punitive powers to hold Network Rail to account.

Go-Ahead suggested that train operators should have the right to withhold payment if Network Rail provided unsatisfactory services, or the right to refuse payment for “non-delivery”.

Similarly, Arriva proposed that operators’ track access payments to Network Rail should not be automatic and should reflect the quality of infrastructure provided on their routes. Arriva also said Network Rail management bonuses should be reformed so they relate more clearly to operators’ requirements. 

Most radically, National Express argued that “if [Network Rail] fails to deliver the customer service level required, then there should be a ready process available to operators to default the infrastructure company and replace with another provider”.

The call for operators to have significant new powers reflected transport groups’ frustration over Network Rail’s lack of response to their concerns. In particular, Go-Ahead and National Express highlighted that Network Rail’s plans to devolve powers to its routes needed to accompany an overall culture change placing greater priority on maintaining and renewing the infrastructure. They said this had been neglected due to Network Rail’s focus on major infrastructure projects.

“Organisationally, Network Rail is skewed towards enhancements,” Go-Ahead’s head of rail policy Richard Evans said in his consultation response. “This is manifested in where it focuses its capability (talent) and resources, with the majority supporting major enhancements, and large scale projects. This leaves a capability drain in the core areas of operations, maintenance and renewals.”

Other major transport groups, including First and Stagecoach, responded to Shaw’s consultation through a collective Rail Delivery Group submission focusing on softer techniques to strengthen Network Rail’s customer focus, which were largely reflected in Shaw’s recommendations. They included use of league tables comparing the performance of Network Rail routes with new heavyweight measures of route performance such as quality of management teams’ engagement with train operators and operators’ satisfaction with Network Rail.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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