It was recently announced that Andrew Haines OBE would be next in line to tackle the much debated top spot at Network Rail, succeeding Mark Carne who is set to step down later this summer.
You might remember that back in February, when the news of Carne’s retirement was first broadcast, we took a look at Carne’s predecessors to see what likely backgrounds Network Rail might consider, what challenges they might face in recruiting the role and made some predictions of our own.
Although our predictions didn’t quite make the cut, the candidate profiles weren’t far off the mark. All four predecessors were; white males, mid 50’s, engineering graduates, with all but one having previous rail experience.
And while there were rumours circling that Network Rail might get it’s first female CEO, with Nicola Shaw being a front runner at the bookies, this did not transpire.
So just what are they getting with Andrew Haines?
A white male, in his mid-50’s, degree educated, who has spent the majority of his career in rail. But there are also some differences which may bring a fresh perspective to the opportunity.
Unlike his forerunners, Haines is a history graduate and not an engineer and his background is predominantly in operating railways and not building them. This could bode well with the next five years in CP6 for Network Rail focusing on improving performance reliability, rather than major upgrades.
Haines was the youngest MD of any TOC at the time he took up the position of Managing Director of South West Trains in 2000, and he was credited with the turnaround of troubled First Great Western as the Managing Director for First Group’s Rail Division between 2005 and 2009.
Most recently, he has been CEO for the Civil Aviation Authority and earlier on in his career worked at Railtrack. This means that he has something none of the candidates before have been able to boast, he is able to bring experience from all sides of the table; TOC’s, infrastructure owners and the public sector. This knowledge could set him apart if he is able to come up with solutions that empathise with Network Rail’s many stakeholders.
What’s different this time around?
The search for Carne’s replacement comes at a time of turmoil for Network Rail and the job is definitely not going to be an easy one, Haines has some major hurdles to tackle.
Network Rail, like most public sector companies, comes under intense financial scrutiny, and every penny Haines’ allocates will be subject to detailed analysis.
Reflecting this is one of the most notable differences in Haines’ appointment; the steep salary drop. Carne’s salary was revealed in December to be in the bracket of £745,000-£749,999, which made him the highest earning civil servant.
In contrast, it was reported that Haines will be earning £588,000 including benefits. This is a far cry from Iain Coucher’s days when he was awarded £500k in bonuses alone in 2008 (although he did give up his bonus the following year, presumably to head off negative press).
The tightening of the purse strings may also be the reason that Nicola Shaw was ruled out of the running, as there were rumours the NR package just couldn’t compete with National Grid.
The devolution process in Network Rail is well under way and significant power and decision making has already been transferred from the centre out to the routes. It’s up to Haines to manage this transition, to ensure NR delivers a cost-efficient and reliable network for passengers.
Strikes, delays and fare hikes mean that the rail industry doesn’t have the best reputation at the moment and with the latest timetabling disaster, lucky Haines is walking in at a time when the public’s faith in rail is at an all-time low.
This is where his time at the CAA might pay off. He had the joy of dealing with the impact of the Icelandic volcanic eruption within his first year as CEO of the CAA. Taking the decision to close UK airspace for six days proves that he is no stranger to making tough decisions and facing heavy criticism, qualities that will come in handy, I’m sure, at Network Rail.
Only time will tell if Andrew Haines has got what it takes to be the hero Network Rail needs right now, but looking at his past successes there are grounds for optimism, and we wish him all the best (and luck!) in his new role.
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