Paul McMahon has been named as the interim managing director of Network Rail’s System Operator, replacing Jo Kaye.
Previously managing director for Freight and National Passenger Operators, Paul has also been head of the Industry Timetable Assurance operation since July 2019, which gives him a good lead into the System Operator role.
While a key role, the System Operator is a complex activity that takes some explaining. The Department for Transport has stated: “The System Operator (SO) is a business unit within Network Rail that is responsible for strategic planning, managing changes to what the network delivers, managing Network Rail’s Sale of Access Rights framework, and producing the timetable.
“For control period 6 (CP6), the SO has its own settlement as part of Network Rail’s determination. The SO will report separately on what it is delivering for its customers (in the form of scorecards and through other reporting tools) and will have its own budget to fund these activities. This should support the rail industry’s desire for an expert, transparent and impartial SO that acts in the best interests of the system as a whole, favouring neither operators nor Network Rail in its decision-making.”
Nick Brown, chairman of the System Operator Advisory Board, offered his description in the annual report: “The System Operator provides independent, trusted expertise in future strategy and capacity allocation for train services, both passenger and freight, on a network-wide level across Great Britain.
“In this it seeks to balance the needs of the industry, the requirements of the Office of Road and Rail and, above all, the needs of customers and stakeholders.
“As the railway industry continues to grow and become more complex, there remains the need for coordinated long term focussed planning across the rail network. Good collaboration with key stakeholders including operators, customers, devolved governments, local authorities and devolved transport administrations, will only become more important in the years ahead.
“The System Operator role, as a network-wide function operating within a devolved Network Rail structure, leads the coordinated central planning and capacity planning for future generations and tomorrow’s timetable for the rail industry.
“The System Operator continues to learn from the challenges of the implementation of the May 2018 timetable, working closely with the Industry Readiness PMO, to make improvements for the passengers, freight and rail users of today and future generations.”
It’s a challenging position, and Paul is obviously looking forward to taking it on. “I’m delighted to be appointed as interim managing director of the system operator at Network Rail,” he said.
“The work that the System Operator does is essential for Network Rail and the industry. A lot of work has gone in to strengthen our capability and processes on timetabling, learning lessons from the experiences of the problems with the May 2018 timetable implementation.
“I’m looking forward to continuing this work, to lead the work on long-term industry planning and to work with the team and stakeholders to respond to the changes that Keith Williams’ review may require of the system operator and the industry.”