A Wrexham & Shropshire Train set of newly refurbished coaches now undergoing operational test-running
John Nelson

John Nelson


John Nelson CV (PDF 95kb)

About John Nelson

John left British Rail in 1997 at the age of 49 to set up his own businesses. As Chairman of management consultants First Class Partnerships Limited for 15 years he specialised in the development of business strategy and managing change, working in the UK and abroad advising rail companies and administrations. Examples of his work include chairing a best practice review of the procedures adopted by the Office of Rail Regulation to undertake the fourth periodic review of Network Rail. The Nelson report was published in 2009. John was also a member of the 5 person Advisory Board chaired by Sir Roy McNulty in 2010-11 and established by the Government to review value for money issues in the industry.

He was for eight years until 2006 a Non Executive Director of Laing Rail, the owners of Chiltern Railways, the first company to be re-awarded its franchise, and from 2003 to 2006 was also a Non Executive Director of South East Trains Holdings, set up by the SRA to operate the first franchise to be terminated. As well as being a Director of Renaissance Trains he is a shareholding Director of Hull Trains, established in 1999 to exploit "open access" opportunities for express trains to London. He also co-promoted Wrexham & Shropshire, set up in 2006 to do the same for North Wales, Shropshire and the Black Country. He is currently promoting a joint venture to privately fund the electrification of the railway to Hull.

Since 2007 John has been a Non Executive Director of Tracsis plc, an AIM listed company that solves a wide variety of resource optimisation, data capture and reporting problems through technology led services and a range of associated professional services, working with clients to reduce cost, improve efficiency and enhance the operational performance of transport networks.

In 2011 he established with others the influential fortnightly “Passenger Transport” magazine. Amongst previous publishing ventures, he wrote "Britain's Privatised Passenger Railway - A Practical Assessment", a market study of rail franchising. This sold round the world.

In 2013 John received a prestigious National Rail Award for his "outstanding personal contribution to the industry".

John has worked in Britain's railways for 46 years and held very senior posts. He pursued a career in general management with an emphasis on business operations and commercial activities in the London commuter belt, on Inter-City services and in the conurbations of Northern England. He worked mainly in the passenger sector until 1983, amongst other things planning with the West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executives the expansion of their rail networks that took place in the 1980s. Following a year as personal assistant to Robert Reid (probably the greatest railwayman since the War), John was then appointed to run the Red Star Parcels business and in a period of 3 years tripled the turnover from an inherited £20m in a very competitive market place, whilst also substantially improving the group's profitability.

In 1987 he became General Manager of BR's Eastern Region, which then represented about a quarter of the national rail network. His 5-year spell at York saw the modernisation of the East Coast Main Line between London and Scotland including the launch of Britain's fastest trains. He was also a leading figure in the drive for more commercially led railway management structures.

In 1991 John was appointed Managing Director, Network South East, (London's commuter railways), BR's largest business. He led a change programme that brought about a continuously improving performance of the railways' punctuality and reliability throughout his tenure, launched the Passenger's Charter, and delivered £200m to the bottom line over a period of less than two years from a combination of overhead reduction and revenue generation despite a severe local recession at the time. From 1994 in the run up to privatisation John was also given the unique responsibility of creating 13 new Train Companies and developing them for privatisation. He chaired each of these until the task was completed in 1997.

John was also for five years until 2002 the part time Non Executive Chairman of a NHS Trust based in Yorkshire. John has an Honours degree in Economics that he took at the University of Manchester in 1968. He was President of the Railway Study Association in 1995/1996.