Thursday, April 12, 2018

UK Track Infrastructure Manager Revamps Standards and Encourages Input   

Network Rail Intends to Operate a Public Business Like a Private Company

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Shipping News Feature UK – Now in public ownership after assuming outstanding debts of £30+ billion, Network Rail has an agenda to transform the tax-payer funded operation to a public sector organisation that behaves like a private sector business. To this end the company has today announced it is encouraging contractors, suppliers and stakeholders to propose changes to its 'standards', the detailed requirements that underpin how the railway and the delivery of improvement projects are run. The changes are to encourage greater innovation, cost efficiency and third party funding into the rail network, whilst maintaining safety and will therefore continue to be of interest to stakeholders in the freight and logistics sectors.

As part of its ‘Open for Business’ agenda, the infrastructure company, which owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway, has already updated and streamlined 400 of these standards to reduce both complexity and cost, and to encourage innovation. Suppliers and other stakeholders will also be asked to proactively suggest better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway via Network Rail’s new standards challenge process.

Network Rail’s standards exist to ensure Britain has a safe, high performing and cost efficient railway, but they are often seen as overly complex and adding unnecessary cost. The company’s Transformation Plan and response to the Hansford Review both identified a number of opportunities to address this by encouraging suppliers and other stakeholders to proactively challenge its standards to increase innovation and creativity, and propose more cost effective solutions.

Network Rail’s response therefore adopted a collaborative and iterative approach in developing the new standards challenge process in partnership with the Railway Industry Association (RIA) and a number of key suppliers and stakeholders. As part of the process, suppliers and other stakeholders are now able to submit a standards challenge application when they consider the standard to be incorrect, not enable the application of best practice, or drive increased cost without comparable benefit.

Network Rail will review all challenges received, and conduct a rigorous impact assessment across a broad range of output capabilities such as safety, performance, environment and compatibility to make sure the capabilities are not compromised. Jon Shaw, chief engineer at Network Rail said:

“We’ve recently updated our 400 most critical standards but to ensure they always represent current best practice and constantly strive to safely reduce the cost of the railway, we need the help of our wider industry partners as well as experts from other industries and universities. The launch of the standards challenge process is the lever for this, providing genuine recognition and incentives to propose more efficient ways of both enhancing and maintaining our railway.”

David Clarke, technical director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) mentioned that his organisation looks forward to continuing its active role in this initiative to improve standards saying that the two workshops held with the supply chain meant there now existed a system for companies to put forward their ideas and encouraged them to do so.

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