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Network Rail and the supply chain: Bringing digital signalling to the railway

Posted: 17 June 2021 | | No comments yet

Phil Bennett, Commercial Director at Network Rail, shares details about how the organisation is changing the way that it works with suppliers in the signalling market in order to support the transition of the UK’s railway to digital signalling, including the European Train Control System and Future Control Command and Signalling (ETCS/FCCS).

Network Rail and the supply chain: Bringing digital signalling to the railway

Current processes between Network Rail and suppliers do not do enough to support the ability to reduce costs or drive innovation and a more collaborative approach is needed. Credit: Network Rail

Network Rail is changing how it currently works with the supply chain to explore more efficient ways that the railway can move from conventional to digital signalling through its Target 190plus research and development programme. We are looking at how we can work with the supply chain to drive improvements and efficiencies – including supplier incentives, delivery models and procurement methods – that will bolster relationships with the signalling market.

Why do we need to change?

The use of digital technology will improve the services to freight and passenger customers, causing less delay due to signalling failure and track closures for access to complete repairs and providing the opportunity for more trains to run where needed.

The use of digital technology will improve the services to freight and passenger customers, causing less delay due to signalling failure and track closures for access to complete repairs and providing the opportunity for more trains to run where needed.This change in how Network Rail works with the signalling supply chain is driven by a major industry challenge that the UK railway currently faces, where the cost and volume of future signalling renewals is unsustainable. Over the next 15 years, there is a need to deliver an increase of over 50 per cent of the signalling renewals work at half the current price in order to achieve a sustainable, affordable railway that can meet customer needs and expectations.

This is a whole industry cost reduction, of which half is made up of Network Rail infrastructure costs and the other half is supplier costs. Current processes and types of agreements between Network Rail and suppliers do not do enough to support the ability to reduce costs or drive innovation and, therefore, a more collaborative approach is needed.

The use of digital technology will improve the services to freight and passenger customers, causing less delay due to signalling failure and track closures for access to complete repairs and providing the opportunity for more trains to run where needed.

Future objectives

The need to reduce the cost of delivering future signalling works provides an opportunity for a step change from the traditional relationships that we have now to a more strategic partnership with the supply chain.

There is the opportunity to create a more effective and efficient industry that encourages investment and more commercial opportunities for suppliers. However, it is important that all of this is driven by customer needs and priorities.

There is the opportunity to create a more effective and efficient industry that encourages investment and more commercial opportunities for suppliers.

David Clarke, Technical Director at the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “There is a huge opportunity available to the rail industry in supporting the future signalling programme. By working in partnership with Network Rail, we can provide more opportunities for innovation, modernise networks signalling and create jobs and investment throughout the rail supply community. Ultimately, we will deliver a more effective, efficient railway for the benefit of freight users and passengers.”

This change in approach provides the opportunity for Network Rail and suppliers to work together to identify the key changes that are needed to help shape and improve the future of railway travel. Building on the success of the work so far, Network Rail’s Target 190plus team will continue to work collaboratively with suppliers in the ongoing developments and will work with the RIA to communicate procurement and delivery opportunities to the supply chain as these become available throughout 2021.

What is Target 190plus?

Target 190plus is a Network Rail research and development programme with the aim of reducing the current whole life cost of signalling, improving services for passengers, increasing safety by creating new ways of working and introducing new technology for the signalling systems on the network.

network rail phil bennettPhil Bennett is the lead for commercial and supplier projects within the Target190plus Programme for Network Rail. He is also the Commercial Director for Digital Railway, Signalling and Telecoms within Network Rail. Phil provides expertise and leadership in establishing effective commercial, procurement and supply chain strategies for digital and conventional signalling activities to deliver an efficient railway to passenger and freight customers.

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