Rick Haythornthwaite, Network Rail's chairman, is expected to name the infrastructure operator's new chief executive by the end of the month.
Current chief executive Iain Coucher leaves at the end of October. Mr Haythornthwaite is interviewing the final "handful" of candidates to replace him, according to a close source. It is believed that at least one of the candidates has an oil-and-gas background – a sector that focuses heavily on health and safety, a key requirement for the rail company.
Speculation is mounting that the next chief is likely to come from overseas, most likely the US. Headhunter Egon Zehnder was charged with finding someone from outside the rail industry with experience of running a major international company.
The new chief is likely to be asked to radically overhaul the government-backed company, with some Tory MPs known to have warmed to the idea of privatisation. But, the Department for Transport is unlikely to follow up the idea as it would destabilise the coalition.