Latest Rail News

06.10.17

Bring in the disruptors to drive rail innovation, NR tells suppliers

A key decision-maker in Network Rail has called for a seismic shift in the way the rail industry approaches its supply chain and asked for “disruptors” in SMEs to be put at the forefront of projects in order to drive change and innovation.

Speaking at the TransCityRail North conference yesterday, Stuart Calvert, head of the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) programme at Digital Railway, told delegates that rail organisations needed to do more to engage SMEs and embrace companies who want to stir up change in projects.

“My argument is that we are focused on the wrong thing,” Calvert explained to delegates at the annual conference in Manchester’s Principal Hotel. “There’s nothing wrong with our signalling engineers, but in terms of focusing, it has been on interoperability across Europe – which is admirable and important. But that wasn’t the right focus.

“It should be on functionality, cost and value. We’ve forgotten about passengers, customers and freight users – which means we’re delivering ever more expensive projects badly.”

Stuart Calvert NR Digital Innovation at TCR

To remedy this, Calvert stated that “disruptors” need to be brought into the rail community to push up standards and increase the amount of innovation happening on key projects.

“It’s because we have not brought enough disruptors in that these problems are creeping in,” he continued. “An awful lot of them are in the SME community, and a lot of them are not even working in the rail industry today.

“We have to bring the disruptors in. What’s happened on Thames Valley is going to happen all over the place, and if you are Thales or Siemens or Hitachi or Bombardier, get disrupting yourself because someone else will disrupt you if you don’t.

“We are being disrupted by a platooning of freight vehicles, autonomous vehicles and all of that stuff as an industry, so we need to get disrupting.”

Calvert also argued that the big opportunity for rail now is how the industry embraces and moves with this change.

“We cannot afford to re-signal a £600,000+ an SEU – that’s £600,000 to hang a lightbulb in front of a train driver,” he warned.

“But if we do it, we will be world leaders – and we can do it in this country, in Manchester, Widnes, Bolton, York or anywhere else because the opportunity is there.

“That’s what ECI has done. It’s about a different relationship and the whole industry has to change, from the DfT to the small one-man or one-woman band.

“But the goal is huge – it should be the most exciting time. I don’t want people coming out of university and saying ‘I want to work for Google’. I want them saying: ‘I want to go and work on the Digital Railway Programme.’”

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Comments

Light Bulb Hanger   06/10/2017 at 16:00

Referring to the signalling engineering profession as “hanging lightbulbs” is incredibly offensive to anyone who has actually been commissioning digital signalling for the last 30 odd years (it’s been around this long contray to recent sound bites) Good luck to you and your magic wand.

Paul B   07/10/2017 at 12:13

"What’s happened on Thames Valley is going to happen all over the place," Well, that's not good news for passengers as Network Rail have decided at late notice to close Maidenhead - Didcot next weekend. Network Rail need nobody's help in disrupting: they're perfectly capable of doing that all by themselves.

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