deck reshuffling

Network Rail chief joins UK government

Aerial picture of Waterloo station and surrounding London area
Image: Aerial picture of Waterloo station and the surrounding London area. Network Rail.

The new Labour Party government has announced its team of ministers in charge of transport. The new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has appointed his shadow team to the substantive roles. The surprise appointment has been the call for Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, to give up that post and become the Rail Minister. That means he will serve under Louis Haigh, who has stepped into the hot seat at the Department for Transport as the new Cabinet Secretary for that portfolio.

After Thursday’s General Election, the government in the UK has changed. The Labour Party has replaced the incumbent Conservative Party. As such, the government ministers have all changed, too, and the transport team has been announced. The elevation of Louise Haigh from her shadow position to Cabinet Secretary for Transport was expected, but the surprise came in the name of her junior minister for rail. Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, the UK infrastructure agency, has taken the role ahead of the expected political appointment of Stephen Morgan, who had been serving in that shadow role prior to last week’s election.

Louise and Peter get down to work immediately

There was no surprise in the landslide victory for the left-wing Labour Party in last Thursday’s General Election. The new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has promised his government will “get down to work immediately”. In that respect, he has quickly appointed his ministers. The surprise came in transport, where Starmer acted on his right to call on the services of the House of Lords (the upper house in the UK parliament) and appoint Peter Hendy as rail minister. The previous government had also exercised that right – recalling former Prime Minister David Lord Cameron to serve as Foreign Secretary.

Louise Haigh poses for her government portrait and has been appointed as the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Transport, her full official title. Image: © Lauren Hurley / No 10 Downing Street.

There is no doubt that the rail industry has a champion in government in Peter Hendy. Although he has resigned from his position as chairman of Network Rail, there is no doubt he has taken with him his contact book. Louise Haigh, who will, in effect, be his boss, is no newcomer either. She may be a lady lording it over a lord, but Haigh has already taken up her office as the new Cabinet Secretary for Transport. She replaces the previous government’s Grant Shapps (who also suffered the indignity of losing his parliamentary seat in the election). Haigh, who was re-elected to her own seat in the city of Sheffield, has already walked into her office at 55 Horseferry Road, the Department for Transport headquarters. She will still serve as a constituency member of parliament in the Commons (the lower house) – a dual portfolio that her Rail Minister colleague will not have to juggle.

Investment in clean energy

Industry at large has welcomed Louise Haigh as Transport Secretary. However, in railway circles, her appointment has been overshadowed by that last-minute signing of Peter Hendy – which is something “star striker on the last day of the transfer window” deal. Regardless, both ministers will have a busy agenda if they are to fulfil the Labour Party election manifesto. Top of the list is the establishment of Great British Railways to supersede the existing infrastructure agency Network Rail – a process that is already underway, albeit slowly. That may change, with Peter Hendy now on the other side of the table. Other rail matters centre on improving passenger transport, including a new rail watchdog and devolving powers to local administrations to improve transport integration.

Peter Hendy – with his formal title of Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond, is the new Rail Minister, having resigned his post as chair of Network Rail on the day of his appointment (5 July). Image: © Network Rail.

The rail freight industry is potentially affected by the establishment of GBR, in that the new body will have greater responsibility for infrastructure and rail access regulation. Haigh may choose to delegate the mechanics of the transition to her junior minister. It is elsewhere in the manifesto, that transport matters may be integrated. Notably, environmental ambitions include a ban on new petrol and diesel “vehicles” by 2030. That manifesto measure is obviously aimed at road vehicles, but it could have implications for rail motive power. The positive side of that policy is a faster rollout of investment in clean energy. If the new Transport Secretary has the intention (and the funds) to help further decarbonise rail freight, then her interactions with the sector could be more intimate than her predecessor.

Protocol now demands the unusual position of the head of a government department referring to her subordinate as “my lord”, while a peer of the realm, in a junior ministerial position, is formally required to address his immediate boss as “ma’am”. Things have never been so polite in the Department for Transport.

You just read one of our premium articles free of charge

Want full access? Take advantage of our exclusive offer

See the offer

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.

Network Rail chief joins UK government | RailFreight.com
deck reshuffling

Network Rail chief joins UK government

Aerial picture of Waterloo station and surrounding London area
Image: Aerial picture of Waterloo station and the surrounding London area. Network Rail.

The new Labour Party government has announced its team of ministers in charge of transport. The new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has appointed his shadow team to the substantive roles. The surprise appointment has been the call for Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, to give up that post and become the Rail Minister. That means he will serve under Louis Haigh, who has stepped into the hot seat at the Department for Transport as the new Cabinet Secretary for that portfolio.

After Thursday’s General Election, the government in the UK has changed. The Labour Party has replaced the incumbent Conservative Party. As such, the government ministers have all changed, too, and the transport team has been announced. The elevation of Louise Haigh from her shadow position to Cabinet Secretary for Transport was expected, but the surprise came in the name of her junior minister for rail. Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, the UK infrastructure agency, has taken the role ahead of the expected political appointment of Stephen Morgan, who had been serving in that shadow role prior to last week’s election.

Louise and Peter get down to work immediately

There was no surprise in the landslide victory for the left-wing Labour Party in last Thursday’s General Election. The new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has promised his government will “get down to work immediately”. In that respect, he has quickly appointed his ministers. The surprise came in transport, where Starmer acted on his right to call on the services of the House of Lords (the upper house in the UK parliament) and appoint Peter Hendy as rail minister. The previous government had also exercised that right – recalling former Prime Minister David Lord Cameron to serve as Foreign Secretary.

Louise Haigh poses for her government portrait and has been appointed as the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Transport, her full official title. Image: © Lauren Hurley / No 10 Downing Street.

There is no doubt that the rail industry has a champion in government in Peter Hendy. Although he has resigned from his position as chairman of Network Rail, there is no doubt he has taken with him his contact book. Louise Haigh, who will, in effect, be his boss, is no newcomer either. She may be a lady lording it over a lord, but Haigh has already taken up her office as the new Cabinet Secretary for Transport. She replaces the previous government’s Grant Shapps (who also suffered the indignity of losing his parliamentary seat in the election). Haigh, who was re-elected to her own seat in the city of Sheffield, has already walked into her office at 55 Horseferry Road, the Department for Transport headquarters. She will still serve as a constituency member of parliament in the Commons (the lower house) – a dual portfolio that her Rail Minister colleague will not have to juggle.

Investment in clean energy

Industry at large has welcomed Louise Haigh as Transport Secretary. However, in railway circles, her appointment has been overshadowed by that last-minute signing of Peter Hendy – which is something “star striker on the last day of the transfer window” deal. Regardless, both ministers will have a busy agenda if they are to fulfil the Labour Party election manifesto. Top of the list is the establishment of Great British Railways to supersede the existing infrastructure agency Network Rail – a process that is already underway, albeit slowly. That may change, with Peter Hendy now on the other side of the table. Other rail matters centre on improving passenger transport, including a new rail watchdog and devolving powers to local administrations to improve transport integration.

Peter Hendy – with his formal title of Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond, is the new Rail Minister, having resigned his post as chair of Network Rail on the day of his appointment (5 July). Image: © Network Rail.

The rail freight industry is potentially affected by the establishment of GBR, in that the new body will have greater responsibility for infrastructure and rail access regulation. Haigh may choose to delegate the mechanics of the transition to her junior minister. It is elsewhere in the manifesto, that transport matters may be integrated. Notably, environmental ambitions include a ban on new petrol and diesel “vehicles” by 2030. That manifesto measure is obviously aimed at road vehicles, but it could have implications for rail motive power. The positive side of that policy is a faster rollout of investment in clean energy. If the new Transport Secretary has the intention (and the funds) to help further decarbonise rail freight, then her interactions with the sector could be more intimate than her predecessor.

Protocol now demands the unusual position of the head of a government department referring to her subordinate as “my lord”, while a peer of the realm, in a junior ministerial position, is formally required to address his immediate boss as “ma’am”. Things have never been so polite in the Department for Transport.

You just read one of our premium articles free of charge

Want full access? Take advantage of our exclusive offer

See the offer

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.