Interview Spotlight: Formed in 2012, as a subsidiary of Network Rail, Network Certification Body (NCB) provides assurance and certification services to the rail industry.
Here, James Collinson, Managing Director of NCB, discusses how the organisation aims to continue delivering an unrivalled level of services across the railway system, both in the UK and worldwide…
What services and benefits does NCB provide for the rail industry?
We are a Notified Body and Designated Body for interoperability regulations, an Assessment Body under the Common Safety Method and a Plant Assessment Body. We are committed to providing benefits to the rail industry that Network Rail laid out when we were created. A prime example of these is to grow industry competence when it comes to independent certification, this includes helping our clients understand what the journey to certification or authorisation looks like.
We also focus on improving safety through enabling standards to be adopted or changed, so practical solutions can be applied to demonstrate compliance.
What have been your highlights, and challenges, so far?
Last year was our sixth year of business and we are now delivering against our strategic objectives. Our initial aspirations for growth and to build an organisation with the necessary competencies to carry out our functions, was difficult in the early years but delivering the industry benefits is now part of our ‘everyday’.
We’re proud to be involved with some notable infrastructure projects such as the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement programme, the Wessex Capacity project, the Ordsall Chord project in Manchester and we’re also starting to see the results of Network Rail’s work supporting the HS2 programme in which we’re assisting with the certification requirements and the authorisation that they need.
We’ve also been the Notified Body and the Assessment Body for some large rolling stock projects including the Hitachi Class 385s for Scotland, Network Rail’s £36 million fleet of new grinding infrastructure trains and the CAF Caledonian Sleeper project. Recently we have been successful in being awarded ECM certification contracts in the freight market.
Most significantly in July 2017 we were awarded a 10-year contract with HS2 to provide independent assessment and certification. This success is a significant milestone in our history and one that rewards the growth and development shown by our people in NCB. A strong aspect of our successful bid was our collaboration with CERTIFER – a French certification body with extensive high-speed experience. Commenting about the collaboration, CERTIFER’s Managing Director, Pierre Kadziola, said: “Partnering with NCB was obvious for us as we share the same values of independence and competence. The combination of our high-speed rail experience with the great UK knowledge from NCB are key in delivering HS2.”
Our organisation has expanded from 25 to 75 people, which has been demanding. We’ve now stabilised that growth and established local teams within the UK, but it has been challenging to maintain consistency in the look and feel of the business as we become more geographically spread.
Understanding what Brexit means for the world of certification and assurance has also been challenging – and we’re not there yet. A lot of the legal requirements are very much tied into European legislation and we need to understand how that’s going to shift in the post-Brexit world.
What does the future look like for NCB?
We’re creating opportunities to diversify; to expand on our non-Network Rail portfolio, for both infrastructure, vehicles and then there’s digitalisation, which is basically unavoidable!
We will broaden the third-party assurance services we offer, recognising that other types of third party assurance are also in demand, both from a GB and non-GB perspective.
We’re testing, and stretching, beyond some of the boundaries of why we were created – and being encouraged to do so.