The Strategic Rail Authority has appointed an outsider to a newly created strategic planning post.

Jim Steer will be responsible for developing ideas into action as the SRA's managing director for strategic planning.

He will have to back up his ideas with robust business and investment cases.

Mr Steer, 53, will also be responsible for the SRA's annual strategic plan.

For 24 years Mr Steer has led the independent transport planning consultancy Steer Davies Gleave.

He has experience in strategic planning and investment appraisal, having concentrated his work on the UK rail sector both during the BR period and since privatisation.

In particular, he has made successful investment cases for a series of light rail and rail infrastructure developments.

He was also responsible for the Dublin Transportation Initiative, the largest European Union-funded urban/regional transport strategy.

He has a BSc in civil engineering from the University of Wales and an MSc in transport planning from London's Imperial College of Science and Technology.

The SRA also appointed Nick Newton to another newly created post - chief operating officer.

Mr Newton, was previously executive director (commercial) at the SRA.

His role involves responsibility for managing the passenger franchises, identifying opportunities for early improvement, leading the re-franchising programme, tackling and overcoming the obstacles to improving rail performance and leading the development of a customer-focused ethos in the rail industry.

Mr Newton, 55, joined the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising at its inception in 1994 in charge of franchise management after a long career with London Transport, where he was responsible for bus service tendering.

He was confirmed in the position of executive director (commercial) prior to the formal launch of the Strategic Rail Authority in February 2001.

The SRA appointments were made by chairman Richard Bowker.

He said: These two key appointments are central to delivering the 'fit for purpose' SRA that will take forward our leadership role within the industry as well as our Strategic Plan commitments. Between them Nick and Jim have accumulated massive experience within the rail industry, which will be vital as we move into the next phase.

Nick will be developing and managing the crucial day-to-day relationships between the SRA and all sectors of the industry while Jim has the task of championing the case for rail investment, armed with detailed planning analysis and robust business cases.

I will soon be announcing the other key appointments of managing director (transformation/commercial deals) and finance director, who will have the task of putting together the arrangements to turn the approved plans into railway reality.

Information from the SRA. 020 7654 6000