The Rail Delivery Group has announced major changes to its leadership as its chairman and CEO both stand down.
Chairman Chris Burchell, who was appointed in 2017 and has been managing director of Arriva UK Trains for six years, is leaving the rail industry in mid-October to join energy company SSE. He will be replaced by Steve Montgomery, managing director of First Rail.
Paul Plummer announced in May 2019 that he wished to retire from RDG but decided to stay in September 2019, so as to see the Williams Review through to its conclusion. After delays caused by a general election and the COVID-19 pandemic, that review is still not published, although the government has started to act on its recommendations and has announced that it will be ending rail franchising in its current form.
In anticipation of the Williams Review findings, and possible changes in the way the rail industry is organised, the RDG is taking the opportunity to restructure and is replacing Paul with two, relatively inexperienced executives, in rail terms, who are being promoted internally.
Jacqueline Starr joined RDG and the rail industry in 2015 from Barclays Bank, where she was customer experience director. She is currently chief operating officer of RDG and will take over as CEO and will lead the Service Delivery function.
Andy Bagnall was appointed as RDG’s chief strategy officer in April 2020, having spent 18 months as director of strategy and communications. Prior to joining, he was director of external affairs at KPMG and director of campaigns at the CBI. He will lead Advocacy & Change as RDG’s director general.
With it likely that the government will create some form of ‘guiding mind’ to bring greater coordination to the railway, RDG has created two distinct pillars to sit, currently, within the same organisation.
Service Delivery will provide functions such as ticketing systems and online journey planning, to support the operation of the railway.
The second pillar, Advocacy & Change, will contribute to the development of railway policy while also facilitating cross industry collaboration on a wide range of issues. RDG has, in the recent past, increasingly found itself representing and coordinating train operator members, for example, in making the case for reform of the industry. Through the RDG Freight Board, it has also sought to support rail freight during a challenging period.
RDG will still stand for collaboration across the industry as a whole, including both Network Rail and HS2, who are key members.
Commenting on the changes, new RDG chairman Steve Montgomery said: “With the railway at a critical point, facing as it does the twin challenges of recovering from the COVID crisis and major structural reform, strong leadership on behalf of the industry is crucial and the changes being made at RDG will deliver this.
“Over recent years, Chris and Paul have built the RDG’s voice and its capability to deliver key services for the industry and they leave it in a strong position to navigate the future within a reformed system.
“I would like to thank them both for their tremendous contribution to the industry over many years.
Paul Plummer, CEO of Rail Delivery Group, said: “RDG exists to help make Britain’s railway better and we’ve made the case for reform of our railway which is now widely accepted.
“The current crisis has shown collaboration across the railway at its best and there will be further tests to come in the transition to a sustainable model for the industry, which puts the customer at the heart of local decision making while helping to decarbonise and level-up our economy.
“We’ve said before reform may mean changes for our own organisation. But it’s never been more important for the railway to have the first-class support services and the strong voice that RDG provides. The steps we are taking now under the new leadership team will help ensure that continues to be the case whatever the future holds.”
Outgoing chairman Chris Burchell commented: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Paul as CEO of RDG over my extended term as chair. He has not only successfully transformed the organisation, processes and strategy but has also been highly effective in bringing the industry to work closer together and to providing an effective voice for industry to government and stakeholders.
“His commitment and leadership through several challenging periods, not least the pandemic, are testament to his spirit and love for the industry and we all wish him well as he steps down from executive roles.”