Network Rail creates ‘virtual route’ to provide better service for freight and national passengers operators: Rail freight produces 76% less CO2 than road haulage per tonne of goods carried

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Network Rail creates ‘virtual route’ to provide better service for freight and national passengers operators


A new ‘virtual route’ for rail freight and national passenger operators will become Network Rail’s ninth devolved operational route.

The change is part of the company’s strategy to become an increasingly customer-focused and route-led business and is consistent with the recommendations of the Shaw report, which proposed a number of actions for Network Rail to consider to protect and enhance the interests of all customers as accountability continues to be devolved. 

The new route will be led by Paul McMahon, who returns to Network Rail’s freight business in an expanded role as managing director, freight and national passenger operators. The new structure will enable the company to re-allocate focus and resources to deliver improvements in four key areas:

  1. Extending customer representation: The new, nationally focused team will take on responsibility for CrossCountry, which runs services on seven of the current eight routes, enhancing support for customers who operate nationally
  2. Delivery of safe operational performance: Additional resource will seek to improve safety both on- and off-network while continuing to out-perform regulatory performance targets
  3. Business development: Regional business development managers will identify opportunities for growth and secure third party funding from end-users to boost delivery of freight schemes 
  4. Enhanced governance arrangements: Proposals for enhanced governance for CrossCountry and other national operators will be put forward following a review involving train operating companies, the freight sector and industry bodies

Phil Hufton, managing director, England & Wales, said: “Rail freight is absolutely vital to Britain’s economy and the changes we are putting in place will mean we are better able to represent the interests of our freight and national passenger service customers.  

“Freight operators’ satisfaction with the service they receive from Network Rail has improved significantly – but it’s important we continue to challenge ourselves to do more for all our customers, ensuring that their needs are balanced with those of train operating companies who wholly or predominantly operate on a single route.” 

New route managing director for Wales

Network Rail has today also announced Andy Thomas will join the company as route managing director for Wales route in August. Paul McMahon will stay in post until then as interim route managing director, after which he will take up his new freight and national passenger operator role.

Andy Thomas (crop)

Mr Thomas will join from the Keolis Group, where he is currently managing director, Hyderabad Mass Transit in India. He has had a wide-ranging international career in rail, transport and industrial sectors, including successful strategic leadership roles with Transport for New South Wales in Australia and Transport for London, where he was head of strategic planning and performance.


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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 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 36,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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