How networks explain unintended policy implementation outcomes: the case of UK rail privatization

Andrew Grantham

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How a government secures the implementation of its policies is one of the most interesting processes in public administration. The tendency of scholars is to ignore implementation and how it impacts on the form of policy, something which invariably changes once resources have been allocated to implementing agencies and the policy detail is addressed. Traditional ‘top-down’ (Pressman and Wildavsky 1984, Mazmanian and Sabatier 1981) and ‘bottom-up’ (Elmore 1979, Hjern and Porter 1981, Hull and Hjern 1983) analytical frameworks give only a partial explanation of outcomes. In making the case for a network approach, a typology of implementation networks is presented. The utility of this typology is evaluated in the context of one of the most complex privatization programmes attempted by any government: the privatization of British Rail (BR) between 1992 and 1997. In the case of the sale of one BR subsidiary train operating company, ScotRail, a variety of agencies with competing interests and acting in a politically-charged climate exchanged essential resources to deliver the policy, though not without generating unintended outcomes in the form of significant change to the policy and the agencies charged with implementing it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-870
Number of pages20
JournalPublic administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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