Network Rail’s CEO Mark Carne broke the news earlier this week that he will be retiring later this year.
Carne took over from Sir David Higgins in 2014 and has overseen some major developments in his time at the helm, including London Bridge station and the drive to a Digital Railway.
His tenure has not been without controversy, back in 2016 he was one of the bookies favourites in the infamous “CEO Sack Race” and just last month the Telegraph reported that he was under fire from Whitehall to stand down.
Despite this, his leadership has been met with praise from Network Rail Chairman Sir Peter Hendy who said “Mark has done an outstanding job and I want to applaud him for what he has achieved in his time at Network Rail.”
Whatever your opinion on his reign at Network Rail, leading one of the biggest names in the UK is a tough role, and it’s going to take some big shoes to fill it.
So where could they look for a replacement?
Take a look back…
To see what type of head might be hunted for, let’s take a look at who’s done it before:
1. Mark Carne, CEO from 2014 to present.
Prior to joining Network Rail, Carne’s background was Oil and Gas. He oversaw Royal Dutch Shell’s response to the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, later becoming MD of Brunei Shell Petroleum, contributing to his successes over-hauling health and safety at NR. He returned to Shell as EVP Middle East and North Africa after 4 years with BG Group.
Aged 54 when he was appointed, he holds a BSc in Engineering Science and a Chartered Diploma in Accounting and Finance.
2. Sir David Higgins, CEO from 2011 to 2013.
Sir David joined Network Rail from the Olympic Delivery Authority where he had been Chief Executive since 2006. Before that he was Chief Executive of English Partnerships, the Government’s national regeneration agency, for 3 years.
Aged 57 when appointed, he holds a BSc in Civil Engineering.
3. Iain Coucher, CEO from 2007 to 2010.
An internal promotion to the CEO role from Deputy CEO, having previously served as Tube Lines CEO and senior roles at EDS.
Aged 46 when he was appointed, he holds a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering and a MBA.
4. Sir John Armitt, CEO from 2002 to 2007.
Sir John led Union Railways, the company responsible for implementing the Channel Tunnel rail link from 1993 until 2001 when he joined Costain Group as CEO. In 2001 he was appointed Chief Executive of Railtrack, before it transitioned to Network Rail.
Age 56 when appointed, he has a BSc in Civil Engineering and a Master’s degree from the London Business School.
Where have Network Rail recruited their executive team from?
Of the ten executive team members, all of them have either been promoted from within Network Rail or recruited from other rail and transport businesses.
It is clear that traditionally, Network Rail haven’t looked far outside of the rail sector when appointing executives to the team. But since Mark Carne’s appointment in 2014, Network Rail has undergone some sizeable changes. All of which could have an impact on who would be best suited to taking over at the helm.
Changes in situation
1. Public sector body
Carne oversaw the transition of Network Rail into a public sector body, so whoever takes over will be the first CEO to be appointed since it has been in the public realm. This could have a significant impact on the type of individuals that will be attracted to the position.
For one, the cultural differences between public and private sectors are vast. Ask anyone who has made the switch from one to the other and they will tell you there is a considerable transition period.
Not only this, the public sector comes with ridged pay scales. Just a quick google of Mark Carne brought up numerous news articles of his appointment back in 2013 and the controversy his £675,000 remuneration package caused. The decision will undoubtedly be heavily scrutinised this time round with the public footing the bill.
These factors could make Network Rail less appealing to potential candidates from the private sector.
2. Devolution to the routes
Increasingly Network Rail has been devolving power from central teams outwards to the individual routes. Central departments may shrink as Route Managing Directors take on more responsibility. Making this CEO opportunity a very different role from the one recruited back in 2014.
3. Capital Investment
CP6 is expected to have a significant decline in capital investment in major enhancements. This will have an impact on the backgrounds that will be best suited to the role. An operator may be preferred to that of a capital projects background.
Who are the likely candidates?
I’m sure in the next few weeks you’ll be able to place your bets on who the most likely candidate will be, but until the odds are revealed my best guesses would look towards the rail and infrastructure sectors again.
If we are to go off of past trends, then the likely candidate will be mid 50’s and hold an engineering degree.
One or two names from TfL and Crossrail will probably be linked and expect some names from other infrastructure companies outside of rail to be touted.
What are your thoughts? I’d be interested to hear who your predictions would be. Click HERE to get in touch.