Network Rail is hoping to see greater innovation, cost efficiency and third-party funding in the rail network by asking contractors, suppliers and stakeholders to recommend changes to its standards.
These standards – that is the detailed requirements that underpin how the railway and the delivery of improvement projects are run – 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.
In partnership with the Railway Industry Association (RIA) and a number of key suppliers and stakeholders, Network Rail has developed a new standards challenge process.
As part of the process, suppliers and other stakeholders are now able to submit a standards challenge application if they consider a standard to be incorrect, not enable best practice, or drive increased cost without a comparable benefit.
All submitted challenges will be reviewed by Network Rail.
Network Rail chief engineer Jon Shaw 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.”
RIA technical director David Clarke said that the standards challenge was a key recommendation of the Hansford Review into contestability.
He added that it provides rail suppliers with a tool to “question overly rigorous standards” to unlock innovation and reduce costs.
The move is part of Network Rail’s ‘Open for Business’ programme – a series of reforms designed to make it easier for third parties to fund, finance or deliver work on the railway, which itself is part of wider agenda to make tax-payer-funded Network Rail function like a private sector business.