New rail agency names Austin as external chief

The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority, the new government agency scheduled to take charge of the strategic direction of the rail network and monitor performance, is bringing in Chris Austin as its first external relations director, the top communications post.

The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority, the new government agency

scheduled to take charge of the strategic direction of the rail network

and monitor performance, is bringing in Chris Austin as its first

external relations director, the top communications post.



The agency’s remit excludes the thorny issue of safety, but the

appointment comes at a time when public faith in the rail network is

plumbing new depths following the Paddington rail crash earlier this

month and another crash this week in Sussex.



Austin will lead a press team of four, headed by Paul McKie, and will

report to chief executive Mike Grant.



He joins from his own Newbridge Partnership, set up to provide political

advice and monitoring for the transport sector. He was also policy and

parliamentary affairs director at the British Railways Board.



Austin also faces the tricky task of representing the body which

regulates fares and reliability - as the cost of rail travel soars and

punctuality in certain key areas is worsening.



He said: ’The main challenge is to make the railway work better and

encourage people to use it. It is the shifting of people from road to

rail that will be the exciting bit.’



Austin’s brief is also to maintain relations with various train users’

consultative bodies, local and regional authorities in the UK and other

railways abroad.



Although he believes that two-way communication with these groups will

be the key to determining rail strategy to boost rail use, by both

passengers and freight, he admits that there is a tough PR challenge

ahead to shift negative public perceptions.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.