Magazine article Management Today

Company Vitae: Network Rail

Magazine article Management Today

Company Vitae: Network Rail

Article excerpt

Owner and operator of Britain's rail infrastructure (but not its trains), this state-owned private company is never far from controversy So how well does it manage to run the railways?

Formative years

Network Rail was created by government decree in 2002 after the Hatfield crash in which four people died as a result of maintenance failures by its predecessor, Railtrack. Network Rail was supposed to lay the ghosts of both Railtrack and long-standing national joke British Rail by making the trains run safely and on time.

Its job is to run the UK rail infrastructure - 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and tunnels and major stations, such as King's Cross - and to provide a 'level playing field', with the various train operating companies (TOCs) competing to run the trains.

We Brits love to moan about our trains and Network Rail has been embroiled in plenty of more serious rows too, from pay and staff disputes to a series of fatal incidents that culminated in January's announcement of criminal proceedings over the Greyrigg crash in 2007.

Recent history

Despite hordes of angry commuters claiming otherwise, punctuality has risen steadily under Network Rail from below 80% to hit a record 91.5% in 2009-10. But the signs are that it may have peaked and both the UK's ageing system and Network Rail's management are struggling to keep up (over 1.4 billion passenger journeys are expected to be made this year) Fares are among the highest in Europe and last month Network Rail was forced to apologise for health and safety failings that led to the deaths of teenagers Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson in December 2005. …

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