Following the department’s failure to properly contract the West Coast Mainline franchise, it commissioned a departmental report into its rail franchising capability. The report, published last month, found that the DfT needs to strengthen its commercial skills, but has been struggling to fill its vacancies: only 12 out of 28 rail franchising posts have been filled in recent recruitment exercises. What’s more, says the report, “it’s been difficult to recruit, retain and grow new permanent staff: DfT’s ability to restart the franchising programme has depended heavily on interims, who represent over 50% of the workforce in some areas.”
The new executive should “have the ability to go straight to market for rail commercial posts” rather than seeking first to recruit from within the civil service, the report concludes, and must “ensure a competitive offer for future recruitment of specific commercial skills.”
It also calls on DfT, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office to “agree the flexibilities needed to recruit and retain staff from the external commercial rail labour market plus the appropriate budgetary treatment... before proceeding further with implementation.”
The report’s recommendations have been accepted, and the DfT now has the ability to go straight to market. It also has the freedom to discount civil service pay rules to attract desirable commercial skills.