By Civil Service World

19 Dec 2012

Philip Rutnam

Permanent Secretary, Department for Transport

Which events or policies have dominated your attention during 2012?

I’m very proud to have led a department which has achieved a huge amount over the past 12 months. We have published our plans for high speed rail after one of the biggest public consultations in government history. We have announced a comprehensive investment programme to modernise and improve the existing rail network. And we have made progress on developing new strategies for aviation and roads.
One of our biggest achievements was the vital role we played in the success of the Olympics and Paralympics. Despite massive additional demand for transport during the Games, the years of detailed preparation and hard work of my colleagues here paid off. All these achievements show the DfT at its best.

More recently, the department has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. The mistakes made with the West Coast Main Line franchise were unacceptable. The only way to deal with a situation like this is to face the facts, and do whatever is necessary to fix them. The secretary of state and I are determined to ensure that we deal with any issues highlighted by the reviews quickly and fairly, so we can move on.

How have the shape and capabilities of your department changed during 2012?

After the restructure last year, staff numbers have stabilised in the central department this year, with some small reductions in the agencies. We tested the capabilities of the department to the full during the Olympics period, and learned a great deal about the skills and abilities of staff in delivering policies. We have also taken great strides towards implementing the Digital by Default agenda, and were the first Whitehall department to move across to the new government-wide website.

Which aspects of the CSRP are most important to your department?

For the DfT, two of the most important aspects of the CSRP are moving towards digital by default, and developing the skills of the department. Our agencies have been in the forefront of transforming services online. Thanks to their work, more than half of all drivers now pay road tax online, and the forecast is for more than 1.5m learner drivers to book their driving test online in the current financial year.
I want people throughout my department to make the most of development opportunities through Civil Service Learning, in particular on the core priorities set out in the Capability Plan: digital, commercial, leadership and management, and project management skills.

What are your main challenges for 2013?

First of all, I want to sort out the problems that caused the failure of the West Coast franchise so we can rebuild confidence and trust in everything we do. This is a high-performing department with so much to be proud of, and I’m determined that we will emerge stronger and better as a result. We have a huge programme of road and rail projects in 2013 which will boost growth and economic recovery throughout the UK. I will be making sure that these infrastructure schemes are delivered quickly and efficiently, so costs are kept down and benefits are felt as early as possible.
We will also continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions by promoting sustainable and greener travel.

Tell your colleagues a joke for Christmas

Q: What’s E.T. short for? A: He’s only got little legs.

To read more from permanent  secretaries, visit the perm secs' round-up homepage

Share this page