Who runs the railways?

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Senex

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Grayling on the BBC R4 "Today" programme at about 8:23: "Actually, no — I don't run the railways". So, given the degree of prescription and interference by the DfT that we all know about, who does run the railways if he doesn't?
 
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daikilo

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Presumably he was replying to a question or comment suggesting he does run them. The interviewer should probably have then asked "In that case, what control do you have over them?"
 

Flying Phil

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Grayling on the BBC R4 "Today" programme at about 8:23: "Actually, no — I don't run the railways". So, given the degree of prescription and interference by the DfT that we all know about, who does run the railways if he doesn't?
The DfT runs it overall - when it is going well........and if it is not going well.... everybody/anybody else runs it!
First rule of Politics....:s
 

cuccir

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If we were inclined to be fair to Chris Grayling, we could draw a distinction between 'govern' and 'operate'. The DfT governs the railway; the TOCs and Network Rail together operate it. In that sense, the word 'run' is probably closer to operate than govern and so strictly speaking it's probably true.

None of which changes the fact that the DfT and hence the minister together have ultimate responsibility for what happens: they give out the contracts and monitor performance.

And arguably the 2018 problems are a result of failure in governance rather than operation: they've come because of a failure to manage the process of connecting infrastructural improvements to everyday operation of the railway. While both the TOCs and Network Rail can take blame for operational errors, it does seem to me that the job of the DfT is to manage the system and prevent the effects of errors by operators spreading, which they've wildly failed to do.
 

PHILIPE

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If we were inclined to be fair to Chris Grayling, we could draw a distinction between 'govern' and 'operate'. The DfT governs the railway; the TOCs and Network Rail together operate it. In that sense, the word 'run' is probably closer to operate than govern and so strictly speaking it's probably true.

None of which changes the fact that the DfT and hence the minister together have ultimate responsibility for what happens: they give out the contracts and monitor performance.

And arguably the 2018 problems are a result of failure in governance rather than operation: they've come because of a failure to manage the process of connecting infrastructural improvements to everyday operation of the railway. While both the TOCs and Network Rail can take blame for operational errors, it does seem to me that the job of the DfT is to manage the system and prevent the effects of errors by operators spreading, which they've wildly failed to do.

Because the DFT is a body of civil servants not railway people
 

Carlisle

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Because the DFT is a body of civil servants not railway people
Its perfectly feasible to be a civil servant with considerable expertise and experience of the rail industry, did every TOC Or NR boss start as a guard, cleaner or p way worker ?
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Grayling doesn't own or control rolling stock, freight or open access TOCs.
He does own the franchised passenger railway, though the control is not on a day to day basis, but by contract.
He also funds but does not control ORR, RSSB, BTP, who have independent statutory powers.
He funds Network Rail on a 5-year basis, leaving ORR to sort-of control it as regulator.
In governance terms this is illogical, with one part of gov marking the homework of another.
Trouble is they both have statutory roles (one is regulator, the other is asset steward) which will need unpicking in primary legislation.
However, at the end of the day, nothing much moves on the railway without the consent of the SoS and his officials.
That's in England.
He has less control over the railway in London, Scotland, Wales, the PTEs and the emerging regional bodies.
He does own transport policy and strategy (hence he is leading the debate on Heathrow 3rd runway).
All clear now? ;)
 
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etr221

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I remember a Southern Region advert from probably fifty years ago that said, as a headline, something like "No one runs this railway, mate"... and on the minute by minute, hour by hour basis that it was talking about, that - or rather what it meant, that it's run collectively by all railwaymen (now including railwaywomen) - is still true.

But, at the other the extreme, the one person at whose behest the railway runs it does, is Grayling - everything is done by a company that he 'significant control' over (Network Rail), or one that has a contract with him, or his delegate.
 

B&I

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Presumably he was replying to a question or comment suggesting he does run them. The interviewer should probably have then asked "In that case, what control do you have over them?"

Or, 'what is the point of you, and how do you justify your salary ?'
 

pdeaves

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Sounds like a technically correct but very disingenuous response from Mr Grayling, who presumably didn't feel like answering certain questions that may otherwise head his way.
 

Flying Phil

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Sounds like a technically correct but very disingenuous response from Mr Grayling, who presumably didn't feel like answering certain questions that may otherwise head his way.
He certainly appears to be a canny political operator.........which is why I was very surprised at his cancellation of the Northward MML Electrification - I would have thought a "review" followed by a creeping program would have been far less damaging politically.
 

B&I

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He certainly appears to be a canny political operator.........which is why I was very surprised at his cancellation of the Northward MML Electrification - I would have thought a "review" followed by a creeping program would have been far less damaging politically.


He's not a canny political operator at all. He's an arrogant non-entity who gets away with it because the media is complicit with his party and the opposition are ineffective.
 

Wilts Wanderer

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Grayling is like an incompetent office manager - first sign of trouble, blame the staff and quietly slither away.
 
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He's not a canny political operator at all. He's an arrogant non-entity who gets away with it because the media is complicit with his party and the opposition are ineffective.

But some partisan right wing zealots will trill on how you’re wrong, wrong, wrong and how poor little Crissy is an innocent little lamb being thrown to the lions by the nasty bigger boys of the TOCs.
 

B&I

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But some partisan right wing zealots will trill on how you’re wrong, wrong, wrong and how poor little Crissy is an innocent little lamb being thrown to the lions by the nasty bigger boys of the TOCs.


Strange how at that point private 'enterprise' stops being the solution to all our ills
 

Red Devil

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Judging by how it's been lately. GTR, Northern and VTEC for instance.
I think it's who's ever first up in the morning seems to be the one running it
 

HowardGWR

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How can a mere politician be responsible for producing timetables, or anything else on the railway? As minister, all he could achieve would be dependent on what he was told by civil servants and the NR Chairman and that would be very little in the short term anyway.

There was a special Board set up with supposedly competent people to ensure it went well. I don't see how ministers could in any way be responsible that it didn't, unless you are of a mind to think that this is so, regardless of facts.
 

B&I

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How can a mere politician be responsible for producing timetables, or anything else on the railway? As minister, all he could achieve would be dependent on what he was told by civil servants and the NR Chairman and that would be very little in the short term anyway.

There was a special Board set up with supposedly competent people to ensure it went well. I don't see how ministers could in any way be responsible that it didn't, unless you are of a mind to think that this is so, regardless of facts.


Because he is the most senior minister and therefore, in a parliamentary democracy, the person in overall charge
 

F Great Eastern

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The role of the DFT is essentially to nationalise the praise and privatise the blame.

The fact that Grayling won't acknowledge his departments problems in the recent issues should come of no surprise. It is typical Tory policy to push blame to someone else because if they are blaming someone else they are not blaming the government and this is not just the case with the railways, but much of politics today.

The DFT essentially use the TOCs and Network Rail as shields. They dictate behind the scenes but when something unpopular happens they run away from the stage as fast as they can. When something good happens they are running to get up on that stage as fast as they can and it's laughable really.
 
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HowardGWR

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Because he is the most senior minister and therefore, in a parliamentary democracy, the person in overall charge
He's in overall charge of presenting transport legislation (or repeal) and DfT budget, That's it. If I thought politicians were any closer to to running industries, I would be very worried. They sit in Parliament and pass laws, nothing else, thank goodness.
 

pdeaves

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If you look at the Companies House register, you will find that 'over 75%' of London North Eastern Railway shares are held by DfT OLR Holdings (in practice this is 100%). Similarly, 'over 75%' of DfT OLR Holdings shares are held by The Secretary Of State For Transport. The SoS has the same say over Network Rail.
Therefore, in answer to the question 'who runs the railways?', whilst not running anything directly on the ground (driving or guarding or whatever), the SoS has direct control over at least two parts of the railway as a duty of office. He can appoint directors, set the overall strategy, etc. OK, the decisions are (or should be) made on the basis of advice from civil servants, but the politician has the final say and, if doing their job properly, has a duty to ask questions to make certain the advice is sound.
There is more to it than a politician sitting there making laws.
 

tbtc

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Because the DFT is a body of civil servants not railway people

Civil Servants who work full time on the rail industry... does that not make them "railway people"?

Or are "railway people" like the "proper football man" cliche, who supporters tend to want their next manager to belong to?
 

PHILIPE

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Civil Servants who work full time on the rail industry... does that not make them "railway people"?

Or are "railway people" like the "proper football man" cliche, who supporters tend to want their next manager to belong to?

Add - "With Railway background!
 

LNW-GW Joint

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It's untrue that DfT has no practical rail expertise.
They co-opt/second/hire people from the industry, and some of them have had long careers on the railway, back to BR.
The HS2 team and the class 700/IEP procurement people are examples of where proper railway expertise was taken on.
People on here might not like the results and blame "civil servants", but there has been a lot of proper railway input into these programmes.
Rail consultancies like First Class Partnerships have provided a number of key DfT managers, such as the people who ran DOR, and, dare I say it, Pete Wilkinson who is franchising director.
SNC Lavelin, who now run LNER for DfT, also have senior rail backgrounds (Robin Gisby is ex-NR).
Slagging off ministers and civil servants doesn't get anyone anywhere, it's how government works.
The same or similar people would be there if Labour was in charge.
Do you think John Prescott and Stephen Byers, or the invisible Ruth Kelly and Geoff Hoon did any better when they were in charge?
It was Alistair Darling who abolished the semi-independent Strategic Rail Authority and imported rail management directly into DfT.
 
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AndrewE

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the SoS has direct control over at least two parts of the railway as a duty of office. He can appoint directors, set the overall strategy, etc. OK, the decisions are (or should be) made on the basis of advice from civil servants, but the politician has the final say and, if doing their job properly, has a duty to ask questions to make certain the advice is sound.
There is more to it than a politician sitting there making laws.
You can delegate authority, you can not delegate responsibility. (Although slime-ball politicians seem to manage it.)
 

B&I

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He's in overall charge of presenting transport legislation (or repeal) and DfT budget, That's it. If I thought politicians were any closer to to running industries, I would be very worried. They sit in Parliament and pass laws, nothing else, thank goodness.


That's a more realistic description of the practical realities than the constitutional theory I was concentrating on. However, it's also a good explanation for many of the problems we suffer from. The current government is composed of people who generally lack long-term goals, beyond enriching a limited number of economic interests, and securing lucrative post-political careers for themselves. Their role in the policy making process seems limited to a bit of presentation, and rubber-stamping other people's stupid ideas, which pass through with minimal scrutiny so long as they meet the politicians' general goals set out above.
 

B&I

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Civil Servants who work full time on the rail industry... does that not make them "railway people"?

Their decisions suggest not, if you define 'railway people' as 'people who know how to run a railway competently'
 

F Great Eastern

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The HS2 team and the class 700/IEP procurement people are examples of where proper railway expertise was taken on.

The 700 and IEP programs looked like they were competitions to see how long and drawn out you could possibly make a rolling stock procurement program. Neither of them are anything to be proud about.

It was Alistair Darling who abolished the semi-independent Strategic Rail Authority and imported rail management directly into DfT.

And that's one thing I'm glad he did as they were completely clueless, although I have to say that the DFT of today are hardly much better.
 

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If the railways were renationalised, what difference - if any - would that make to this question?

There would probably be an organisation - the British Transport Commission, or the British Railways Board - under which the railways would be placed. Theoretically they would run them. The railways might be divided into regions. If the Southern Region made a mess of a big timetable change, who would be responsible? I think the general manager of the region would probably be the one, but some would argue, possibly for political reasons, that it was really the chairperson of the board. Others might argue that it was the Secretary of State for Transport, since he would probably have appointed the chair of the board, and might, behind the scenes at least, have approved the appointment of the general manager. As someone's already said with reference to Grayling, politicians like to be on stage to receive praise when things are going well, and be out of sight when they're not. So we could expect our future S. of S. to have tried to take the credit for a big project like Thameslink and all the benefits it was expected to bring, and to be blaming the board or the region if the new timetable didn't work.

We increasingly want somebody to be "held accountable" when something goes seriously wrong, and we talk about "controlling minds" and that sort of thing. Yes, someone must ultimately be responsible, and he or she may indeed have failed to take a close enough interest in a big organisational development that goes wrong. If we still had a major rail crash every few years there would probably be calls each time for the Secretary of State to resign. But in many situations the reality is that no single person at or near the top could have caused things to happen differently. A Secretary of State for Transport at a time when the railways are nationalised probably has no more or less real role in "running" them than Chris Grayling. The real answer is in one sense the senior civil servants at the Department of Transport, and in another it's the people stated by DarloRich in post #10.
 
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