Carne was formerly executive vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa for Royal Dutch Shell and prior to this worked as executive vice-president and managing director of gas company BG Group. He studied engineering at Exeter University and is a Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Carne will join Network Rail on January 6 before formally taking over from Higgins on April 1. His base salary will be £675,000, and Network Rail says Carne's overall remuneration package will not exceed that of the current chief executive.

Higgins joined Network Rail in 2011, succeeding Mr Iain Coucher, and his departure from the organisation coincides with the start of Network Rail's 2014-19 funding period (Control Period 5).