Former Costain chief executive calls for collaboration between Railtrack, operators and contractors.
John Armitt has told contractors that they can look forward to a less adversarial culture after his appointment as head of Railtrack this week.

The former Costain chief executive, who called for more collaboration between Railtrack, the train operating companies and contractors, said: "One of the keys to getting the railway to run better will be for all the people involved to work more closely together. It's a collaborative effort. We want the contract to be in the bottom drawer, not the top drawer."

And he also made a plea for more stability.

He said: "I think, like many others, that if we constantly keep changing the basis of the structure of the railway, then that can only lead to indecision." Armitt took over Railtrack two months after it was forced into administration by transport secretary Stephen Byers.

Armitt, who was tipped for a return to the rail industry after his departure from Costain in the summer, is talking to all his regional managers to gain a fuller picture of the rail system.

Armitt is a man who has spent his career in engineering, and we welcome that

Robin Southwell, WS Atkins chief executive

He has a wealth of industry experience, having returned contractor Costain to profit in the late 1990s after heavy losses. He also spent 27 years at Laing's civil engineering division and ran the British Rail subsidiary Union Railways, which was responsible for developing the Channel Tunnel Rail Link connecting London to the tunnel.

The appointment was welcomed by Robin Southwell, chief executive of rail consultant WS Atkins, who said: "Armitt is a man who has spent his career in engineering at the heavy end, and we welcome that."

Jim Cornell, a British Railways veteran of 36 years, was appointed non-executive director, in reaction to the criticism that the Railtrack board lacked industry experience.

In another development, Mike Grant, chief executive of industry watchdog the Strategic Rail Authority, was sacked on Monday by its chairman Richard Bowker. An SRA spokesperson said: "Richard made the decision to take full executive responsibility for Railtrack."