Network Rail regulation and performance


NR shakes up supplier barriers by streamlining standards and recruiting devolved leaders

As its response to the Hansford Review, which looked at how barriers can be broken to make it easier for organisations to invest in and build on the railway, Network Rail has produced a national framework which will help drive a consistent and transparent approach for third-party involvement.

As part of the Open for Business programme, about which manager David Ollerhead wrote for the latest issue of RTM, the infrastructure owner is implementing a number of reforms to the way its asset protection and optimisation (ASPRO) teams work.

The ASPRO teams are responsible for making sure any work on or near the railway is done safely and to the right standards. While this has secured the UK railway’s position as Europe’s safest network, it has sometimes meant that standards and practices make it difficult for suppliers to deliver projects.

To change this, a national ASPRO framework is currently being produced and will soon be rolled out in order to clearly define the processes, working practices, responsibilities and contacts across the whole business. As a result, third-party promoters of rail projects will receive a quicker, more reliable service when dealing with Network Rail.

All ASPRO teams will have to be compliant with the new framework by September this year.

Also as part of this initiative, the infrastructure manager has created eight brand-new dedicated roles for a head of ASPRO in each of the devolved routes. These professionals will work with regional project sponsors on third-party requirements and will be directly accountable to the industry, much like the current route managing directors are.

Network Rail is currently recruiting for these positions, but Mona Sihota has already been confirmed as its new national professional head of ASPRO. She will be writing about this framework shake-up in the upcoming edition of RTM, hitting desks in August.

“The path to changing the culture and behaviours of a large organisation such as Network Rail will take time, however we are committed to becoming open for business and the journey has begun,” explained Sihota.

“We’ve published our high-level national framework and have begun drafting the processes and procedures to support the variety of external party projects we will engage with. In addition, we’ve produced our national policy around ASPRO so that we maintain line of sight to our national ASPRO objectives.”

To support this, NR will revamp its ASPRO website and build in the systems and tools designed to measure its internal performance indicators.

“I look forward to the opportunities ahead and I will be open and transparent with our journey,” she continued. “Network Rail ASPRO will continue to listen to the industry via regular meetings so that we can share our progress and learn where we can improve.”

Amey has been working with NR in a special advisory capacity to formulate ASPRO service levels by which other organisations can hold them to account. These service levels will ensure that suppliers can know exactly what to expect from Network Rail’s service, as well as when to expect it by.

Today’s major announcement is the result of a year-long project to transform the business, which, as Ollerhead explained in his comment piece for RTM, included a trial on the Anglia route that tested a streamlined, slicker and less bureaucratic approach to ASPRO. The findings of this pilot will be informing national roll-out to ensure barriers are broken across the entire network.

Top image: Jonathan Brady via PA Wire/PA Images


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