Rail (UK)

Arm’s length rail body

- Department for Transport · England · Public Health England · Alistair Darling · Network Rail Route 18 · Bedfordshire

Why are those who ad­vo­cate the cre­ation of a new ‘arm’s-length’ body to over­see the rail in­dus­try so cer­tain that it would be any more suc­cess­ful than the last at­tempt?

Cast your minds back 16 years, to the day when Alas­tair Dar­ling an­nounced the abo­li­tion of the Strate­gic Rail Author­ity (SRA).

As Sec­re­tary of State (SoS) he was fu­ri­ous that the SRA’s han­dling of the Pe­ri­odic Re­view process meant that he had lost con­trol of the Govern­ment’s fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to the in­dus­try - both the amount of money the in­dus­try was re­ceiv­ing and how that money was spent.

DfT is con­stantly un­der pres­sure, not only from other Govern­ment de­part­ments but also from MPs and other ‘Task Forces’ and stake­hold­ers, to in­vest in this or that train ser­vice. The ex­cuse that such de­ci­sions were for the SRA to take did not sat­isfy stake­hold­ers and frus­trated Dar­ling.

I con­tend that Net­work Rail is as much ‘arm’s-length’ as an SoS will be able to coun­te­nance, and that any new body will soon go the way of the SRA. A sim­i­lar, and top­i­cal, ex­am­ple of such a body is to be seen in the fate of Public Health Eng­land.

Peter Foot, Bed­ford

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