SRA to be stripped of power in rail shake-up

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Alistair Darling is to clip the wings of the Strategic Rail Authority as part of a major shake- up of the industry.

Alistair Darling is to clip the wings of the Strategic Rail Authority as part of a major shake- up of the industry.

The Secretary of State for Transport believes that too much power is concentrated within the SRA, and wants to carve out some of its most important decision-making functions.

Under the proposals to be included in a White Paper on the rail industry next month, the SRA will be stripped of its role in awarding franchises to train operators, according to well-placed sources.

Instead, Mr Darling's Department for Transport will take on the role, and the slimmed-down SRA will be confined to just managing the franchises once they have been awarded to the operators.

However, Mr Darling's purge of the SRA won't end there. It is understood that he wants Network Rail to take on many of the organisation's other day-to-day functions, leaving the SRA having a just marginal influence over Britain's railways.

News of Mr Darling's proposals is thought to have reached the SRA's chairman Richard Bowker, who is said to be "livid".

The SRA didn't return phone calls. But one industry source said that Mr Bowker had in the past few weeks been angling for a senior role at Network Rail.

It is understood that he recently met with the Network Rail chairman, Ian McAllister, but the source said that his ideas hadn't been well received.

A spokesman for Mr Darling refused to comment. The decision to wield the axe to the SRA was taken after the Transport Secretary rejected Mr Bowker's submission to Mr Darling's review of the railways.

Mr Bowker called for the creation of a new and powerful Railways Agency, that would set the strategic direction of the country's railways, combining many of the functions of the SRA and the Office of the Rail Regulator.

Mr Bowker met with the bosses of the train operating companies, including National Express and Stagecoach last week.

Observers interpreted this as a last-ditch attempt to win support for his plans.

Comments