While most people have been celebrating with mince pies and Xmas crackers, the Department for Transport has been busy rearranging the deckchairs in the run up to the holiday season following the West Coast franchise fiasco. According to the Daily Telegraph, Peter Strachan, one of the three civil servants suspended after the franchising process was terminated, has quietly packed his bags and another, Kate Mingay, who sued the Department over its treatment of her, has been transferred to the Crossrail team.
Strachan, a career railwayman who had worked for British Rail and Railtrack as well as National Express in Australia, was the Director General in charge of major projects and London at the Department. He had been in post just under a year when he was suspended. According to the Department’s organisational chart, he was responsible for a budget of nearly £4bn this year and his division had nearly 200 staff.
Meanwhile, without waiting for the Richard Brown review of franchising due to be completed by the end of the month, a senior official within the department, Clare Moriarty has been appointed to head a new rail division which will be responsible for future rail franchise processes. Meanwhile, train operators are desperate to get the franchise process back on track. In an interview I conducted with Brian Souter, the boss of Stagecoach, for the forthcoming Kindle version of my book on the company, due out in January, he said that the most important issue was to get the process started again as the prolonged delay was causing widespread consternation within the industry and an investment hiatus. Other operators have made similar statements to the Department.
Watch out for more changes early in the New Year and more pressure from the train operators to get the franchise programme restarted