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Big changes to access and possessions will save millions – RDG

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) says it has found ways of saving another £1bn from the industry’s running costs by 2019 through new planning and working practices.

A working group has spent 18 months looking at the potential for savings, and has come up with these suggestions:

  • Changing the way maintenance, renewals and enhancement work is planned and carried out via the Industry Access Programme (potential cross industry benefits: £150m-350m)
  • Removing about 700 redundant or problematic switches and crossings (£30m-£40m)
  • Increasing ‘time on tools’ during possession windows by reducing hand over, set up and hand back time (£60m-140m)
  • Better risk management for infrastructure projects through establishing more collaborative agreements between Network Rail, operators and contractors, so that risk is collectively identified and shared (£100m-230m)
  • Involving operators earlier in the planning of major projects to avoid Network Rail delivering – and therefore spending – more than is needed for operators’ requirements
  • Improved planning and working practices leading to more services for passengers (such as Sunday services at Saturday levels) and therefore more fares revenue for government (£130m-300m)

The Industry Access Programme (IAP), which offers the potentially biggest savings, aims to improve joint working between operators and Network Rail to make the best all-round decisions on maintenance, renewals and enhancements, instead of it being seen as a zero-sum-game competition.

The report notes: “The estimated benefits for maintenance are based on a live trial carried out in 2013. The trial involved Network Rail’s London South East route and passenger operator Southeastern agreeing an 11 week period (September – December 2013) to extend midweek night access on the Tonbridge to Hastings line. During the trial, maintenance work was done during two seven-hour slots on Mondays and Tuesdays every week, instead of four-hour slots over four nights in two of the 11 weeks. The trial delivered a 52% increase in maintenance productivity, an 84% reduction in maintenance backlog and 40% savings in maintenance costs.

“For renewals and enhancements, the estimated benefits are based on analysis done in the London South East, London North East & East Midlands and Scotland routes. These pilots looked at optimising the access required for work planned in CP5, by determining the lowest whole industry cost options, including passenger and freight operator revenues and costs. The results showed that whole industry benefits can be achieved by reducing the total number of disruptive possessions and the overall number of disruptive possession hours. This provides more effective ‘working windows’, meaning less time is spent on set up and hand back. The figures from the live trial and case studies have been extrapolated to take account of all the potential sites where the IAP approach could be applied.”

Network Rail’s target is to cut its running costs by 20% by the end of CP5 in 2019, building on the 40% achieved over the last decade.

The working group looking at ways of making the savings includes Network Rail, passenger and freight operators, contractors, suppliers, the Department for Transport and Office of Rail Regulation.

Robin Gisby, Network Rail's managing director of network operations, said: “With more people and freight travelling by rail than ever before on what remains Europe’s safest major railway, the industry should be proud of what it has achieved over the last decade.

“But if we are to meet future challenges in providing greater capacity while reducing costs, we know the industry needs to make changes to how it operates. The RDG work has identified how to help Network Rail meet its tough efficiency targets and deliver wider safety and performance benefits over the next five years, through greater collaboration with the rest of the industry to plan and carry out essential work.”

Tim O’Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup and RDG lead on the work, said: “All parts of the railway are committed to making taxpayers’ and passengers’ money go further and helping Network Rail meet its efficiency targets. It is equally important that any changes we make to how maintenance and improvement work is managed also benefit rail users, by reducing disruption, improving safety and potentially allowing operators to run more services.

“The RDG recognises that the railway is only as good as its staff and that the progress made over the last 20 years was only possible due to their daily hard work. Our frontline workforce will underpin rail’s future success and the RDG’s role is to provide staff with the leadership and support to enable them to continue improving this vitally important industry.”

The full report, ‘Running a Better Railway: How changes to planning rail improvement work can deliver savings and better services’, is here.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


David White   29/08/2014 at 21:55

Yes us front line workers need contracts not in two days dropped till weekend then sat night an maybe shift in the week the whole policy off track workers on 0 hours no benifits and the new sponsor system has made it even worse for the agency worker. Who are agency not by choice. So help the people who for the last 20 years shovel an hmer an work in all kinds off conditions from best summer 30+ to the worst winter -12 that's all thanks dave

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