The first major milestone of Network Rail’s drive to put passengers first has been marked today with the formation of a new Southern region, which will benefit from a record investment of more than £6 billion over the next five years to improve train services for passengers. 

The current Wessex and South East routes have joined in a move which will shift power and decision making into smaller, regional organisations that are closer to customers and will give local managers the levers and authority to tackle performance issues head-on.

John Halsall, who has served as managing director of both the South East and Wessex routes previously, has been appointed to lead the Southern region and will oversee further changes planned to continue to devolve power and authority from the centre to the routes and regions later this summer.

John Halsall, managing director of Network Rail's Southern region, said:

 “I’m delighted to be leading the new Southern region into this exciting period, where we have a real opportunity to deliver better services for passengers and freight users and improve how we work together as an industry.

“Putting passengers first and addressing the decline in train performance have to be our priorities, and these changes will help us deliver the better service that passengers and freight users deserve.

“Our new region means we will be able to be more supportive of the routes, build on how we work with our train and freight operators and regional stakeholders and become a company that's easy to work with.”

The Southern region is the busiest region in the country, with 700 million passenger journeys a year and more than 7,000 passenger and freight services every weekday.

Around £6.3 billion will be invested over the next five years to operate, maintain and renew the railway across the region, which also serves as a vital freight link, with more than 266,000 tonnes of freight passing through each week.

The four routes within the new Southern region: Wessex, Sussex, Kent and Network Rail High Speed, will form later this summer and will continue to deliver their passenger-focussed business plans for the next five years.

The Wessex and South East routes will retain a managing director until the route director roles formally come into being later this summer.

Sam Chessex will serve as acting route managing director for South East from today with David Dickson filling the role for the Wessex route.