In a move to improve regional services in Scotland, Network Rail has set decentralised plans in place for April this year.
The plans come in response to recent customer complaints which cite communication and delays as major problems during the extreme winter weather. It is hoped that devolving power to local operators will improve operating services and reduce business costs.
These plans come as a relative shock despite the fact that plans to decentralise power have been discussed since autumn; experts were not expecting implementation by Network Rail until 2012.
The government-created firm currently owns and operates most of Great Britain's rail infrastructure, managing 18 of the largest and busiest railway stations in the UK.
David Higgins, who took over as chief executive of Network rail earlier this month, said: “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.”
Network Rail will transfer responsibility from the company to route managing directors who will manage their own infrastructure. The move will enable route directors to make decisions about rail maintenance, safety, operations and customer service matters.
The programme will preliminarily focus on Scotland and Wessex, which matches the lines operated by South West Trains from London to Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Dorset.
The initial programme will be used to pilot the new structure and its success will determine whether the other seven routes in the UK will follow the devolution process.
During the extreme winter weather, Network Rail failed to deliver sufficient information to customers at Edinburgh's Waverley Station. Furthermore, over Christmas, significant delays meant that only 81 per cent of trains ran on time in Scotland.
Last year, Tom Winsor, who was the UK’s rail regulator for five years, described Network Rail as a “beast ripe for slaughter.” He urged the new Government to take radical steps towards railway reform, by breaking up Network Rail to form regional companies who were more responsive to customer demands and needs.