The separate infrastructure business is still in the planning stage

The £6bn major projects division of Network Rail could be hived off to form a separate business that could ultimately compete to run infrastructure projects overseas, Building understands.

Two separate sources close to the body’s senior management said incoming chief executive David Higgins had asked the organisation’s director of investment projects, Simon Kirby, to work up plans to run the division as a separate business.

The move would see the business, which runs projects such as the £5.5bn Thameslink improvements and the £600m Birmingham gateway scheme, asked to turn a profit on its own account.

One source said: “Kirby has been given the remit to build a business with an overseas operation. If it’s going to compete globally, it will have to become more efficient.”

A separate source said: “They are currently looking at what blockages might stop them from doing this [competing overseas].”

A Network Rail spokesman declined to speculate on future developments. He said: “Obviously, we are open to any new thinking which will deliver projects in a more efficient way.”