New chair of Network Rail appointed as transport secretary brands agency’s performance "unacceptable"

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin appoints TfL commissioner Sir Peter Hendy as new chair of Network Rail as agency is blamed for delays to rail improvements

By Sarah Aston

25 Jun 2015

Sir Peter Hendy has been named as the next chair of Network Rail, the arm’s-length body overseeing the UK's rail infrastructure, as the transport secretary attacked the organisation's performance. 

Hendy, the current commissioner for Transport for London, who oversaw the operation of London’s transport for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, replaces Richard Parry-Jones who is due to step down in mid-July.

Announcing Hendy’s appointment to MPs during a statement on Network Rail delivery, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin called for a major review of the company’s investment programme and said he expected a progress report later this year.

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Blaming Network Rail for causing delays to the government’s £38.5bn plan to modernise the railway network, McLoughlin criticised the body for failing to spot problems and called certain aspects of the organisation’s performance “unacceptable”.

Of Hendy’s appointment McLoughlin said: “The current transport commissioner in London Sir Peter Hendy is someone of huge experience, who helped keep London moving during the Olympics, he will be a huge asset to Network Rail in overseeing their delivery in coming years.”

Network Rail was reclassified as a public sector body last year following new European guidance, a move which added Network Rail's debts to the government's balance sheet.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, acknowledged McLoughlin’s comments, and admitted that some projects were taking longer than expected.

“Over the last year, it has become obvious that the challenges of operating, maintaining and enhancing the railway are significant,” he told the BBC.

He added: "I think it's time to level with the public and say that some of these extraordinary projects that we absolutely need are going to take longer and are going to cost more than we originally thought.

"We are going to take the summer to re-evaluate the extension of the programme - we need to do that properly with the Department for Transport and, of course, looking at the impact on trains as well."

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