He will steer delivery of Network Rail’s £25bn of infrastructure renewals and enhancements, much of which already has been allocated to contractors through several major frameworks deals.
Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The scale and complexity of Network Rail’s investment programme makes this one of the most challenging and exciting roles in Britain today.
“Francis brings with him significant leadership experience from the rail industry, including a strong focus on both workforce and passenger safety.”
Dr Paonessa presently runs Bombardier Transportation, employing around 3,700 staff at eight Bombardier sites and 23 customer locations.
He initially joined Bombardier in 2010 as president of UK rolling stock, where he managed the new build facility in Derby, manufacturing mainline and underground trains for the UK and for export.
While at Bombardier, Dr Paonessa has successfully managed a range of large scale, complex projects, and led a major culture change programme.
He has achieved a significant increase in productivity across the business and led the teams to win orders with Southern Railways, TfL and the £1.3bn Crossrail deal.
Dr Paonessa started his career with shipbuilder Vosper Thornycroft in 1992, initially as a mechanical design engineer. He is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.