Network Rail will split into nine regional units in a big shake up announced today

New Network Rail chief executive, David Higgins, who took over at the begining of the month, has unveiled plans to devolve Network Rail’s power to nine regional units in a bid to force through efficiency savings worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

The move is said to “better align itself [Network Rail] to the needs of both its customers and passengers by creating a number of new, powerful, devolved business units run by managing directors” according to a statement released today.

Commenting on the changes, David Higgins said: “Network Rail has saved money and transformed the railway through central control but to make further improvements in all areas we now need to increase responsiveness at a local level.

“We’re devolving accountability to the route level so that we can get closer to our customers and be in a better position to deliver improvements to passengers and freight users, while reducing costs.

“Each new route managing director will, in effect, be running their own infrastructure railway business with significant annual turnover and resources.

“This represents a significant change of emphasis to give our people on the routes the ability and the means to deliver a bigger, better, more affordable railway.

“However, we’re determined not to undermine the progress that has been made, but to build on the strengths of what we’ve achieved.”

He added: “There will continue to be a critical role for a supporting centre that helps make the most of economies of scale.

“The railway still needs to be planned and operated as a network which operates seamlessly. And we must maintain the company’s focus on efficient and effective management of long-life railway assets.”

The move comes ahead of the submission of the official review of rail costs, which has been conducted by Sir Roy McNulty, the former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

It is widely expected to recommend an overhaul of Network Rail similar to that announced today.