Although the railways have rigid specifications for the design and delivery of its infrastructure projects, Network Rail is keen to hear what variations might be appropriate.
It hopes that a little innovation could enhance efficiency and save some money.
As part of its Open for Business initiative Network Rail has already updated and streamlined 400 of its standards over the past 18 months to reduce complexity and cost, and to encourage innovation. Suppliers and other stakeholders are now being asked to suggest better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway through the new standards challenge process.
The move is part of a wider agenda to make Network Rail more like a private sector and more attractive commercially to investors.
Network Rail’s standards exist to ensure safety and performance but they are often seen as overly complex and adding unnecessary cost, the directors acknowledge.
Contractors and suppliers are now being incentivised to submit a standards challenge application when they consider the standard to be wrong or restrictive. They will be allowed to share in any cost savings.
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.”
David Clarke, technical director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) said: “Following two workshops with the rail supply chain, Network Rail have a system by which companies can provide their suggestions and ideas. Now, it is for the industry to come forward with their creative solutions – and we encourage all to do so.”