Posted on February 8, 2013 · Posted in North East

Devolution, Decisions and Drainage – an insight into the Network Rail LNE Route and Business Plan.

A talk by Phil Verster, Route Managing Director, Network Rail LNE, Monday
21st January 2013 The Academy, Platform 9, York Station.

Phil came to talk to the North East IRO about his obsessions and tools for improving the LNE route.

He opened by challenging a number of beliefs and attitudes. He pointed out that there are differences between the way the industry sees itself and the way the customer sees it. It was important to change focus on complacency and move to a positive approach to continuous improvement. It was all too easy to excuse inadequate performance by focusing on the difficulties rather than on looking for opportunities.

Growth in demand was a significant challenge as was the way that the railway industry was funded. The customer is being asked to shoulder much more of the costs, and to retain these customers the industry must become cleverer in reducing costs but at the same time delivering better service. This may seem like an impossible task, but not so, provided that the industry gets smarter, in challenging existing ways of doing things. He put up a cost, performance and demand to illustrate the established thinking, and which he firmly believes should be challenged.

There were three main thrusts to improving – these are – reduce and if possible eliminate bureaucracy, focus on the basics, and plan better. This will require changes in behaviour and attitudes. The introduction of ‘can-do’ attitudes, the encouragement of decision making at appropriate levels, greater emphasis on managers supporting instead of directing the workforce.

The LNE has already started on the path to improvement. Cost saving have already been obtained by challenging track renewal criteria to optimise asset life, trading resources internally with other routes to optimise the use of plant and equipment, more emphasis on managers spending time at the work-face, this enables them to see where matters might be improved, eliminating waste, and under utilised resources, greater involvement of work teams in planning and identification of better methods of working.

All this required people at all levels in the industry making, and being allowed to make decisions about their work, and to be equipped to make these effectively.

Behaviours are changing. Safety and Performance have become an obsession, getting things done and learning from it a way of life, challenging and accepting challenge from others as a norm, are all part of the philosophy.

Phil gave an inspiring talk, and responded enthusiastically to the questions.

And drainage? Phil showed how there had been a tendency in recent years to forget established knowledge, and failing to learn from the past. Drainage is a good example. Forget the maintenance of simple ditches, and ignore the underlying geology and a wet Summer will result in potential disasters. The old railwaymen had the experience to know where the high risks were. We should not ignore them.