Revealed: Anger and tension as head of Network Rail in Scotland is moved

The operational head of Network Rail in Scotland has been moved amid increasing ScotRail delays caused by track and signalling faults for which it is responsible.

Wednesday, 7th November 2018, 8:43 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th November 2018, 6:13 pm

David Dickson has reacted angrily to being shifted aside, emailing colleagues that ScotRail Alliance [with Network Rail] managing director Alex Hynes wasn’t “comfortable” working with him until his replacement arrived.

Mr Dickson, the alliance’s infrastructure director, applied for but was not chosen for a new position replacing his post, of Network Rail Scotland’s chief operating officer.

An industry source said he had said in the email he “regarded the new role as his existing job”.

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There is tension within the Scotrail Alliance.
There is tension within the Scotrail Alliance.

The move is seen as the latest friction within the alliance, with sources close to ScotRail being privately critical of Mr Dickson while Network Rail sources defended his record.

One industry source said: “There is a lot of discomfort about how much control of the railway has been handed to the train operator [ScotRail].”

Pressure has increased after ScotRail’s pre-tax losses rocketed from £2.6 million in 2016 to £17.9m last year.

Network Rail’s share of delays have increased to 63 per cent since April compared to 51 per cent last year, while ScotRail’s have fallen from 41 to 29 per cent.

The new post is understood to have gone to Liam Sumpter, regional director of train operator Northern in England, which Mr Hynes used to run.

Mr Dickson has been switched to a planning role on Network Rail’s next five-year spending period from 2019, a job which is not part of the alliance.

The news comes weeks after ScotRail’s punctuality slumped to an eight-year low, with only 81.8 per cent of trains arriving within five minutes of time over the four weeks to 13 October – 6.6 points down on a year ago.

Annual average performance has fallen or stayed the same for more than a year and is now 87.5 per cent, nearly 4 points lower than in 2017.

A Network Rail spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the alliance, said: “Infrastructure director David Dickson is moving to work for Andy Thomas, managing director of strategic operations, on the Network Rail 100 day plan.

“This is a piece of work taking place over the next few months looking at how we should structure ourselves to deliver [2019-24 spending] control period six and provide the best possible service for passengers and freight customers.”