Rail (UK)

In praise of An­drew Haines

- Railways · Transportation · Industries · Network Rail Route 18 · United Kingdom · Brazil · British Rail

The idea for a new or­gan­i­sa­tion that will act as the ‘guid­ing mind’ for the rail­way is gain­ing ground, with signs that things will start to re­turn to nor­mal in the New Year and that within a few months, lock­downs, masks, so­cial dis­tanc­ing and test & trace will be dis­tant mem­o­ries. (Mys­tic Wol­mar seems to have been wrong in his pes­simism about a vac­cine, al­though noth­ing is cer­tain yet).

There is lit­tle doubt that this or­gan­i­sa­tion will be built around Net­work Rail, al­though the pre­cise de­tails of how this will be done re­main un­clear.

While we all know that Net­work Rail has been any­thing but a per­fect or­gan­i­sa­tion (with a ten­dency to­wards un­fath­omable bu­reau­cracy, gold-plat­ing projects, hos­til­ity to­wards out­siders and schemes ‘not in­vented here’, and a lack of ac­count­abil­ity), it has been on an up­ward path ever since An­drew Haines took over as chief ex­ec­u­tive from Mark Carne two years ago.

That sug­gests there is only one per­son qual­i­fied to take on the role of head­ing this new or­gan­i­sa­tion (let’s call it Bri­tish Rail­ways for mis­chief’s sake, al­though re­al­is­ti­cally Rail UK is prob­a­bly a more likely can­di­date) - the afore­men­tioned Haines.

There is a good rea­son for this. For my lat­est book, I have been talk­ing to a lot of the BR old timers who mor­phed suc­cess­fully into the pri­va­tised rail­way a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago.

Al­most to a man (and they are all men), they went through BR’s man­age­ment trainee scheme which in­volved work­ing in var­i­ous parts of the net­work - one day you could be in a small parcels of­fice, the next day at di­vi­sion HQ, and a cou­ple of months after that or­gan­is­ing pas­sen­gers on a large chunk of the net­work.

There are few of these grad­u­ates from the trainee scheme left in the in­dus­try, but Haines is one of them, and even after pri­vati­sa­tion he did a va­ri­ety of jobs. His knowl­edge of the whole net­work is there­fore un­equalled.

Add the fact that he is per­son­able, com­pe­tent and ar­tic­u­late, and you have the only per­son up to do­ing the job. That won’t, how­ever (as he knows), stop me dis­agree­ing with him when I think he is wrong!

In­deed, RAIL has been push­ing this for some time and it is some­thing Nigel Har­ris and I agree on. A de­tailed ar­gu­ment propos­ing the re­con­fig­u­ra­tion and re­boot­ing of NR as the in­dus­try’s ‘guid­ing mind’ was made by Nigel in RAIL’s Com­ment as long ago as July 29 – four months ago.

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