Network Rail To Rethink Railway Construction Practices

Network Rail wants to make it easier for third parties to build on or near their railway lines by overhauling its current practices and standards.

This follows the Hansford Review, which examined the restrictions that organisations face when they want to invest and build on the railway. By changing its policies and approach to risk management, it hopes businesses will experience a more consistent and simpler process working with Network Rail.

It is down to Network Rail’s asset protection and optimisation (ASPRO) team to oversee work that is done close to the railway and ensure it is completed to the right standards. However, the review stated that these can often be so high that other parties are put off investing in potential projects.

A new ASPRO framework has been published, providing transparency for other organisations with clear processes, working practices, responsibilities and contacts.

National and professional head of ASPRO Mona Sihota noted that while changes will “take time”, the team is committed to adapting the current culture of the organisation.

“We’ve published our high-level national framework and have begun drafting the processes and procedures to support the variety of external party projects we will engage in,” she stated.

Ms Sihota added that Network Rail has also produced its national policy around ASPRO to ensure its objectives are met.

“Supporting these documents, we will revamp our ASPRO website and build in the systems and tools to monitor and measure our internal performance indicators,” Ms Sihota went on to say.

The ASPRO lead stated the organisation wants to be transparent to third party businesses and “listen to the industry via regular meetings” in order for it to learn what areas could be improved upon.

All ASPRO teams at Network Rail will have to comply with the new framework by September, which will help encourage other companies investing in building work near or on the railways, including those working on bridge bearing replacements.

Network Rail has also been busy inviting suppliers to bid for railway projects worth £5 billion.

Earlier this month, it issued a Contract Notice in the Official Journal of the European Union to allow businesses to bid for these opportunities.

It is thought the contracts will involve ten years of railway track building, which will begin next year, and will help improve the country’s railway lines.

Network Rail’s director for Track Steve Featherstone stated: “Combining our plain line expertise with that of switches and crossings will bring huge benefits to both our route customers and the wider supply chain.”

In addition to this, Network Rail is committed to its Railway Upgrade Plan, investing £130 million to maintain and improve its 20,000 miles of track. By doing this, it will provide an extra 6,400 train services and 5,500 new train carriages by 2019, representing a growth in capacity of 30 per cent.