Legal Business

Network Rail

  • General counsel: Suzanne Wise.
  • Team headcount: 32 lawyers.

The past 12 months has seen Network Rail transform from a private company to an arm’s-length body of the Department for Transport (DfT), with the in-house team hugely instrumental in negotiating with the DfT what that would mean for Network Rail’s governance and processes.

Suzanne Wise, who joined as GC from Premier Foods in October 2011, comments: ‘The legal team has been involved in a huge number of aspects as we go through the implementation of going from a private company to a government body.’ Wise works alongside three other divisional GCs: for property, Cathy Crick; for corporate, Natalie Jobling; and Richard Smith for the routes division.

On top of governance issues, the team has also been heavily involved in preparing the organisation for compliance with the Freedom of Information Act; the changes in procurement law a result of its change in status; and how the legal team will support the business in its new environment.

Alongside these changes, the Network Rail team has been involved in corporate activity, including reclaiming over 100 rail depots.

The litigation team has also agreed a significant settlement after a colliery tip shut the tracks near Hatfield Colliery (then run by Hargreaves Services), closing the line between Doncaster, Poole and Scunthorpe, and causing eight weeks of delays.

The past 18 months have seen the team more than halve its external panel to five core firms. Wise says: ‘We continue to leverage those relationships and have extracted a lot of value out of that.’ Wise is planning to bring in key performance indicators for external firms.

The team continues to extend fixed fees and an arrangement that allows the Network Rail business to go direct to panel law firms for certain categories of work.

RPC corporate partner Richard Haywood says: ‘The Network Rail team are impressive. They are very well organised under Suzanne Wise, and Natalie Jobling’s selective appearances at industry conferences shows a willingness on the part of the team to put something back for the future of the profession.’