Network Rail has announced two (shortly to be three) track systems contracts that could cover the next 10 years and be worth around £5 billion to the successful bidders, or over £10 billion of work when the cost of free-issued materials and services is included.
Great Britain has been split into three regions for rail systems delivery – Scotland, Central (London North West, London North East and East Midlands route) and South (Anglia, South East, Wessex, Western and Wales routes).
Defined as covering “anything needed to make the rail system work including track, points, overhead lines and signalling”, these contracts for track and rail systems replace the nine existing frameworks for plain line and switches & crossings that covered CP5.
Those nine geographic contracts, S&C north and south and seven for plain line stretching from Scotland to the South East, were awarded to five organisations in total, so the new arrangement means that Network Rail only has three contracts to administer – a saving in itself.
The new North Alliance is made up of Babcock Rail, Arup and Arcadis, while the South Alliance is Colas Rail and AECOM – the same companies that comprised the S&C South Alliance during CP5.
The Central Alliance contract will be announced in about a month, Network Rail programme director track Steve Featherstone told Rail Engineer.
He also explained the reasoning behind the new arrangement. “We previously split the contracts between S&C and plain line as we wanted to build up expertise,” he exclusively told Rail Engineer. “We knew there would be some inefficiency because of that, but all of the advances in high-speed handbacks of S&C and plain line, and improved reliability, have come from concentrating our resources. It’s no good being ‘Jacks of all trades and masters of none’.
“Now we have that expertise, it’s time to combine the contracts again and hopefully retain that expertise while regaining the efficiency.”
Steve also explained what was meant by track systems including overhead lines and signalling. “When we do a track job, remodelling a junction for example, then the OLE and the signals often need removing, resiting and replacing. Under the terms of the new contracts, all of that will be done by the alliances.
“For example, we recently completed the remodelling of Liverpool Lime Street. From a mile out, all of the overhead work was done by the current alliance teams. At all stages of the work the track and OLE have to work as a system. It was all kept in house, which is much more efficient. We adopted the same approach at Euston, Wembley, PARR and lots of other schemes”
Each contract includes designers as well as contractors, to bring their experience together. This both reduces time and cost.
Steve pointed out that this multi-disciplinary way of working already takes place with minor civils as well. “If we replace the track through a station,” he said, “we usually have to reset the platform coping stones to maintain gauge. We don’t get another contractor in, we do it ourselves.”
The new contracts are for ten years, which will cover both CP6 and CP7, but with a break clause after five. So, provided the contractors do a good and efficient job, there will be no need to go out to retender until 2028.
All of which leads to greater efficiency, and saves Network Rail, and ultimately the taxpayer, money.