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Rail Partnership Awards returns for 2018

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Railway companies big and small are vying to be recognised as one of Network Rail’s top suppliers at the 2018 Rail Partnership Awards.

Network Rail is working with Rail Media to host the new-look Rail Partnership Awards on 7 June at Birmingham’s Vox Conference Centre.

Fifteen awards will be presented on the night, with categories including SME of the  Year, Diversity & Inclusion, Best Collaboration and Best Project (Small, Medium and Large).

The night will culminate with the coveted Supplier of the Year award, which will be selected by Network Rail from the winners of each of the preceding categories. Previous winners of the Supplier of the Year category include the likes of Buckingham Group, Story Contracting, Babcock and Balfour Beatty.


The event, which was last held in 2015, will showcase some of the best work delivered by contractors and suppliers on Network Rail projects between January 2017 and April 2018.

Entries need to be submitted by 23 March and a shortlist will be announced on 2 May. Submissions will be judged by Network Rail’s executive committee.

Francis Paonessa, managing director of Infrastructure Projects, explained why the Rail Partnership Awards was making a welcome return for the rail events calendar: “The partners we work with to deliver rail renewals and enhancements are essential to our success – we cannot maintain and expand the rail network for the benefit of passengers without our supply chain.

“I see the Rail Partnership Awards as a perfect opportunity to bring together the highest performing companies in the supply chain. The awards create opportunities for rail suppliers of all sizes to bring the best ideas and achievements to the attention of the rail industry.”

He added: “Individuals, teams and organisations all need recognition to operate at their best and it also helps drive continuous improvement within the rail industry. These awards are a great way of celebrating achievements and recognising when organisations go above and beyond to make a real difference to rail travel in Britain.”


Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, said he wanted to see a closer working relationship between Network Rail and the supply chain in the future. The Rail Partnership Awards was one way of doing this.

“There’s no doubt at all that the Partnership Awards are a great opportunity for us to recognise the amazing people that lie behind these companies which we work with and that achieve some extraordinary things. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to say thank you to those people and to encourage more innovation and more creativity from the supply chain.”

He added: “I think we can deliver more innovation from the supply chain, and I think Network Rail really has to play a key role in that. Too many people think that Network Rail block innovation rather than encourage innovation and we need to open our doors and say ‘we’re open for business, we’re open for new ideas, come and share your ideas with us’ because ultimately that’s what the industry needs.”

The Safety category within the Rail Partnership Awards recognises continuous improvement towards safety within the industry. It is an area where the supply chain is making real progress.

Mark said: “I would like to thank the contracting community because I think they embraced this message almost faster than Network Rail did. There have been really significant improvements in contractor workforce safety over the last four years. If you look at their safety performance trajectory compared to Network Rail staff’s performance improvement, the contractor market has improved faster than we have.”


Network Rail will be hosting a supplier conference at The Vox during the day of the awards. Francis Paonessa explained how he felt Network Rail’s relationship with its supply chain would evolve during the transition into CP6.

“The operating landscape for CP6 is expected to change significantly – with limited funds available to the Government to invest in the railway, enhancement funding will be more diffcult to obtain and there is a real aspiration to increase third-party investment in the railway infrastructure,” he said.

“There will be a far greater emphasis on demonstrating value for money in terms of cost and schedule certainty.

“Routes will also have greater discretion to choose internal or external delivery mechanisms when procuring infrastructure renewals and enhancements which are funded by third parties. This should create new opportunities for suppliers, and I welcome this increased competition as this will provide the right environment to benchmark Network Rail’s services, costs and processes against other delivery organisations.”

Francis Paonessa

He added: “To deliver more efficiently within an increasingly competitive market, we need to see further innovation within the rail sector. Third-party funding and financing is one way of bringing in di erent organisations with new ideas. We actively encourage innovation in the supply chain by working collaboratively to tackle specific challenges such as safety – sharing best practice and giving visibility of these innovations through schemes like the Partnership Awards which can only help this development, so it’s important we take the time to do this.”

Mark Carne is excited to have one final opportunity to present the Supplier of the Year trophy as he prepares to step away from the organisation after five years in charge.

“Of course I’m going to miss it,” said Mark, who announced his retirement in February. “It’s quite a difficult time in a way for me now because I’m not going to ease off. I’m going to be one of these people who runs absolutely to the last hour…. but I will miss it because it gets in your bloodstream. Anybody who works in the rail industry knows that it becomes a really important part of you.”

To find out how to submit an entry or for information about attending this year’s event, visit www.railpartnershipawards.com