British officials seek to hire a well-compensated leader to lead the effort in restructuring the railway system.

Estimated read time 3 min read

Government officials are attempting to appoint a well-compensated individual from the rail industry to solidify the implementation of Great British Railways (GBR) within the Department for Transport prior to the upcoming election.

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On Sunday, rail fares in England and Wales increased by 4.9%. Government officials claim this is a fair compromise, as the railway system still depends heavily on public funding. However, the Labour party argues that this equates to a 66% increase since 2010, which is nearly twice the rate of wage growth.

There are concerns that the establishment of a new director general to oversee the integrated railway, similar to the Conservatives’ planned GBR, could impede or delay Labour’s intended reforms. This director general would hold a higher position than current rail leaders.

The transport ministers and leaders of the GBR transition team are supporting a reorganization that may hire an industry professional who earns considerably more than the permanent secretary of the department.

The Department for Transport (DfT) chose not to provide a statement regarding an internal human resources issue. According to a government insider, the department is constantly adjusting its systems to facilitate the operation of rail services, including the implementation of the rail reform plan.

Efforts to establish GBR have been hindered in the past due to the disagreement between the DfT and the Treasury regarding the authority of a partially independent entity.

The goal of these updates is to synchronize “track and train” practices in the industry by merging Network Rail, responsible for managing the infrastructure, into an integrated rail organization that would oversee train operations and potentially award contracts.

Huw Merriman, the rail minister, stated that the publication of a preliminary rail reform bill last month could still result in its passing as legislation, despite the limited time before an election.

The Labour party has not yet specified its policy, except for a pledge to bring the train operations under public control as current contracts end. While there are concerns that the government may be implementing permanent changes that could hinder future administrations, Labour has proposed creating a cohesive organization and it has been suggested that a restructuring of the Department for Transport aligns with their future plans.

The proposed plans from the Department for Transport may face opposition from the Treasury, as they have been attempting to manage the increasing expenditure on railway. The projected cost for establishing GBR alone has also risen from £205 million to an estimated £381 million.

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The top earners among senior public officials have historically been from the rail industry, with Andrew Haines, leader of the Great British Railways transition team and head of Network Rail, topping the list with a salary of £589,000 based on government data released in July 2023.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has a history of hiring an employee within the department at a high salary. Peter Wilkinson, the managing director of passenger services, was permanently hired in 2014 to improve rail franchise and earns £265,000.

Possible candidates for the upcoming position may be chosen from the higher-level management of Network Rail, all currently making a salary of £330,000. This group includes individuals like Alex Hynes, who is already managing Scotland’s railway in a more cohesive manner.

The Department for Transport did not confirm nor deny any actions, however, a source from the government stated that they would guarantee cost-effectiveness for the taxpayer.


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