Network Rail to open its doors to competition and contestability: Network Rail logo-2-2

Thursday 1 Dec 2016

Network Rail to open its doors to competition and contestability


Network Rail is to set up an independently chaired review to help the company break down the barriers to competition in all elements of delivering projects, Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail announced today.

In a speech to ‘The Future of Rail’ conference in London, Mark Carne said:

“Network Rail’s transformation is moving us to being a public sector body that acts like a private business, with a clear focus on what customers want. Competition is key to that ambition, but I too often hear that the barriers for new suppliers with potentially different ways of working are substantial.

“I want to encourage contestability in all elements of railway project delivery to encourage third party funding and financing of projects, innovation and new models of delivery.

“We have to open our doors, cut through the red tape and look for new ways of delivering a better railway for a better Britain. I’m announcing today that Network Rail is setting up an independently chaired review into all barriers that prevent alternative project delivery models.

“This in turn will further encourage our own teams to innovate and push aside the barriers holding them back.”

Network Rail has itself upped its game on project delivery over the past two years:

  • It will meet 93% of its regulated project milestones in 2016, up from about 65% in 2014
  • It has reduced engineering overruns by 65% in a year – to the extent that less than 0.5% of train delays are caused by overruns in delivering our huge programme of major renewals and enhancements
  • And delivered every bank holiday investment programme without incident (almost £400m of work on over 1,000 projects) since Easter 2015

On the extra £450 million for digital technology announced by the Chancellor last week, Mark Carne said:

“It is exciting that the Government has recognised the importance of Digital Railway by providing £450 million to trial new digital rail signalling technology. This is an area where we need to accelerate the introduction of technology to improve performance and run more trains. 

“Now is the time for the whole industry to step up and grab hold of this opportunity. We have made good progress in having an industry wide approach to Digital Railway, with the launch of an Early Contractor Involvement report next week. This highlights that the industry will have to change the way we procure many services. In Digital Railway we will focus on specifying the problem we need help solving, rather than prescribing the solution we think is right. This will then allow the supply chain to come up with innovative low life cycle cost solutions – which they may also choose to finance.”

Mr Carne also announced the creation of Boards for each of the devolved route businesses, to oversee the running of the railway in their area, and upon which passenger representatives will sit with a trial to be set-up within the next four months.

Mr Carne concluded: “We have fastest growing, and safest railway in Europe. But it is under unprecedented pressure due to record passenger numbers, and this pressure will only increase in coming years. To meet the immense capacity challenges facing us, all parts of the railway have to modernise. We must all relentlessly put the passenger at the core of everything we do if we are to step up and deliver a better, more reliable and affordable railway, fit for all.”

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About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 38,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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