Competition within Network Rail for rail enhancements

Published 9th August 2012

Competition within Network Rail for rail enhancements to reduce costs for passengers?

UK - Network Rail (NR) has set up a subsidiary company to compete for railway construction work against established construction companies.

A new Network Rail owned company has been formed

A new NR owned company has been formed called Infrastructure Projects (IP with a remit of reducing costs of railway projects in the next five year accounting period. This commences next April the same time as IP goes fully live as a subsidiary company after being created 18 months ago to prepare processes and partnerships ready for the launch.

New methods of approaching how projects are carried out have already been introduced following the introduction of a Commercial Directors Forum (CDF). This co-ordinates the rail industry approach to collaborative working throughout all members of the supply chain. This forum contains commercial directors of the 20 major NR suppliers and IP and they have collectively signed up to better working.

Pay up Policy

Politicians should note that the CDF has agreed a ‘Fair Payment’ charter guaranteeing payment within agreed timescales which can be as low as 21 days in exchange for a discounted price. This enables smaller suppliers not to have to worry about cashflow and to be paid on time by the principle suppliers.

New Standards

This new way of working replaces the old adversarial ways and has already hugely improved working relationships and trust between NR and contractors. This in turn has allowed IP to become an accredited BS11000 organisation which is only gained by proving the better methods are working creating genuine collaborative business relationships with others.

Early Alliances

Some schemes are already underway working under the new arrangements and BS11000 was in already place last Spring on the Hitchin Flyover and Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park main line enhancement schemes.

From April 1, 2013, IP will have to delivering schemes like these more efficiently and to start with, they will be allocated 90% of their work by NR with 10% to be bid for against other organisations. This will change to an 80/20 split after three years leading, it is hoped, to savings for taxpayers and passengers as demanded by the Government via the McNulty report.

They will be bidding for schemes ranging from ones like the £25m Nuneaton Chord line, the £47m Hitchin Flyover to the multi-billion pound HS2 project.

Better Relationships

The 7th and latest annual Network Rail Supplier Perception Study conducted by MORI/IPSUS last Spring shows a significant improvement over the previous six years. NR Chief Executive David Higgins has been credited by IP senior management with making changes possible after getting rid of the former adversarial ways used in the nine year reign of his predecessor Iain Coucher.

Hitchin Flyover

This project will reduce delays on the East Coast Main line (ECML) as trains to and from the Cambridge branch will no longer have to compete for paths over the flat Cambridge Junction at Hitchin station.

The flyover will grade separate trains as they will leave or join the ECML on a new stretch of railway. This crosses the existing ECML on a bridge and rejoins the old Cambridge route almost a mile to the east of Hitchin. This project will remove a major bottleneck on the route reducing delays by an estimated 30,000 minutes annually.

The total cost of the project is expected to be £47m and passengers can expect to travel on the new stretch of line by early 2014.

Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park East Coast Main Line upgrade

Passengers using Kings Cross may have noticed a lot of engineering works being carried out this year between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace. This will bring into use disused platforms and existing lines will be upgraded to passenger status. Along with the Hitchin flyover, more trains will be able to be run with less delays once the two projects are completed.

Stalybridge station and track renewal

This £20m project will help the Transpennine Express and local Northern services run better with the provision of a through track and replacing old equipment. This is also part of the preparatory work for electrification in 2016 between Manchester and York.

The signalling system will also be replaced to reflect the changes, and the speed of trains passing through the station will increase from 40 to 50 mph. The station will get a new bay platform adding two platforms to the existing three and better passenger facilities such as a coffee shop and shelters on a station that has remained nearly unchanged in 100 years.

There will be no trains for nine days at the end of October to commission the new signalling system.

Nuneaton new Chord

To allow more freight to operate between Felixstowe and major industrial centres, a new line is being built just north of Nuneaton, 100 miles north of London on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

This will allow larger 9’6” high containers requiring W10 gauge from Felixstowe to avoid London via the Great Eastern Main Line and the North London Line to reach the WCML.

This will save hundreds of miles of unnecessary travelling by freight and will obviously reduce costs for all. And by reducing traffic on the southern 100 miles of the crowded WCML, millions of passengers will also benefit. The new line will be able to accommodate longer freight trains, directly benefitting all rail users.

Running longer trains enhances the economics of rail freight significantly

because the operating and maintenance costs of additional running wagons are marginal compared to the significant locomotive, fuel and crew costs.

Unit costs of container transport per mile will considerably reduce as a result, again helping all consumers as goods transport becomes cheaper.

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