UK: The 'deep alliance' between infrastructure manager Network Rail and passenger operator South West Trains went live on April 29, with a 'single senior joint management team' now responsible for infrastructure and train operations on NR's Wessex Route, one of the busiest commuter networks in Europe.

Planned to run until the end of the current SWT franchise on February 4 2017, the alliance aims to improve efficiency and the management of disruption by facilitating more collaborative working and faster decision-making.

Network Rail Chief Executive David Higgins said the launch 'marks a new phase in the evolution of Network Rail as we continue to push decision-making away from the centre, empowering our front-line managers to run the railway more effectively'. He stressed that Network Rail would continue to focus on delivering its obligations to all train operators, including freight companies, 'protecting the interests of all customers whilst maintaining the seamless operation of the whole network'.

Aligned objectives and incentives are promised by the alliance partners, with a single management team for London Waterloo station, better planning of track maintenance work and an improved response to disruption.

Staff terms and conditions and collective bargaining agreements remain unchanged, but 'operational efficiencies' are expected from joint training, communications and occupational health processes.