Department for Transport appoints generalist career civil servant to run Rail Franchising

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that “the Rail Delivery Group, which represents all of the train operating companies in Britain, have made pleas to the Department for Transport and Eurostar chairman Richard Brown, who is reviewing franchising, to get the programme back on track over the next six months”.

They also report that the Department for Transport has appointed Clare Moriarty as Director General for Rail, with responsibility for the franchising programme post the West Coast events.  So they’ve gone back to having a dedicated Rail Division, the disbanding of which in 2010 was arguably one of the causes of the recent problems. But as we’ve commented before, the people responsible for that strategic organisational change have long since moved on to bigger jobs and escaped blame for what was a very poor decision, driven by expediency rather than strategic analysis.

So with this appointment DfT have put someone in charge, whose main fit to the role appears to be that she isn’t tainted by what has gone before. I believe I have met Moriarty in the past and if I remember correctly, she was impressive. But she moves from being Director General Corporate (running all the “back-office” stuff at DfT), and is not in any sense an experienced rail industry person – as Mike Mitchell, whose retirement in 2010 led to the previous reshuffle, certainly was.

Clare Moriarty

Neither is she a deeply experienced commercial person.  She’s never as far as I know run a major procurement exercise or been in a procurement role.  Here’s her high-level bio from the Government website.

 

Clare’s early career was in policy roles in the Department of Health and the NHS, including 3 years as Principal Private Secretary to both Conservative and Labour Secretaries of State for Health.

From 2005 to 2008 Clare was Constitution Director at the Ministry of Justice, with responsibility for information rights, human rights, electoral policy and the constitutional settlement.

Clare is board champion for gender at DfT and supports the development of women leaders across the civil service.

So, for all the talk about the need for more commercial skills, for all the discussion about having more senior procurement people in key roles, perhaps with top level private sector experience, this is the reality. Move another highly intelligent but generalist civil servant into the hot seat and hope for the best.

Is Sam Laidlaw, who wrote the recent highly critical West Coast report, and is still a DfT non-executive director, happy with this? Given the non-executives didn’t manage to influence the previous disastrous events in the slightest, are they going to sit back now? Well, at least they have a nice shiny new scapegoat now in Ms Moriarty to blame if there’s another problem! Good luck to her...

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