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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 01:41 GMT 02:41 UK
Railtrack operations chief axed
Left to right: Railtrack's technical director Richard Middleton, former chief executive Gerald Corbett and former chief operating officer Jonson Cox
Mr Cox (right) joins Mr Corbett (middle) in resigning
Railtrack has axed the man it brought in a year ago to improve the company's performance.

Jonson Cox, the chief operating officer, has been dismissed after failing to deliver sufficient results after last autumn's Hatfield crash.

The company's chief executive Steve Marshall will take direct control of the troubled company's operations, following Mr Cox's departure.

My view is the role wasn't required anyway

John Robinson
Railtrack's new chairman, John Robinson, said the change would allow Mr Marshall to focus on "crucial" business issues such as operational performance, network safety and a restructuring of the business.

Mr Cox was responsible for reviewing Railtrack's relationship with its contractors, as well as taking day-to-day charge of operations across the entire rail network.

'Not working'

Mr Robinson said the role of chief operating officer was superfluous and had been "one layer too many" of management.

Engineers repair damaged track with the assistance of a crane
Emergency repairs were part of Mr Cox's responsibility

He said he had been thinking of eliminating the role ever since he arrived in June.

Although Mr Robinson declined to comment on Mr Jonson in particular, he said that the operations role "wasn't working, the [company's] performance has not been improving anything like fast enough".

He added: "My view is the role wasn't required anyway."

The BBC's transport correspondent Simon Montague said that Mr Cox has effectively been sacked, after less than a year in the newly created post.

Short tenure

Mr Cox joined last September, after being boss of Kelda Group, formerly known as Yorkshire Water.

The BBC's Mr Montague said that Mr Cox had failed to motivate staff at Railtrack, who were said to be pleased when they were told of his departure.

Staff was also reportedly pleased by news that Mr Marshall would take direct control of the company's operations.

However, George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, told Radio 4's Today programme that Mr Marshall should not hold the role permanently.

Surprised by Mr Cox's departure, Mr Muir described the job as "the most challenging role on the railways".

'Quick' replacement needed

"A lot has to be done," Mr Muir said. "We are very supportive of Steve Marshall, but they will have to find somebody very good to take over very quickly."

Improvements have not been delivered and have been "very slow to come through", Mr Muir said.

During recent months Railtrack's management has been under fire, following a series of fatal crashes on the UK's railways.

The company's former chief executive Gerald Corbett resigned after problems on the network caused by the Hatfield crash and was replaced by Mr Marshall.

In the City, Railtrack shares stood unchanged at 329p in mid-morning trade.

The BBC's Simon Montague
speaks to Railtrack Chairman John Robinson
Association of Train Operator Companies' George Muir
"I am surprised that this has happened"
See also:

24 Jul 01 | Business
Railtrack's 'appalling year'
23 Jul 01 | Business
Railtrack funding under threat
22 Jun 01 | Business
Corbett pay-off branded 'obscene'
24 May 01 | Business
Railtrack reports massive loss
29 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Re-nationalise Railtrack say MPs
17 Nov 00 | UK
Railtrack chief quits
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