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Digital Railway outlines plans for revolutionising early supplier engagement

Revolutionising the way the rail industry works with its supply chain could radically reduce the costs to the industry as it looks to implement digital technology, a report by the Digital Railway’s Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) programme has stated

The report advises that “commitment and upfront investment” will be necessary to reform the industry to focus on the supply chain delivering outcomes for customers, along with a consideration of costs across the whole life span of new signalling assets. It comes after the Transport Select Committee warned Digital Railway was at risk of further eroding supplier confidence in the sector if plans are so overambitious that they need to be scaled back.

Despite the challenges involved, the Digital Railway Advisory Group has already endorsed the report and is looking to act upon its recommendations, buoyed by the government’s recent commitment of an extra £450m of funding for the programme in its Autumn Statement.

Gordon Wakeford, chair of the Rail Supply Group, said: “The RSG warmly welcomes the publication of this report and the recognition of the value of engaging suppliers early and regularly in the whole process.

“By collaborating from the start we can all achieve better understanding of the effective application of technology and unlock hidden benefits and opportunities.”

The recommendations made by the report of how the industry should adapt its approach include asking contractors to focus on performance outcomes to drive solutions, and involving them earlier in digital specifications to ensure that projects are delivered more efficiently.

The report also suggested identifying risk earlier and having a consistent procurement strategy in order to secure longer-term work and investment from the supply chain, which the announcement of extra funding has already helped.

“The Digital Railway programme is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the capability of UK railways and we are delighted with the co-created approach outlined here for early supplier engagement,” said David Tonkin, interim CEO of the Railway Industry Association.

“The supply chain is energised and mobilised by this commitment to a new approach for working together to deliver a programme that will transform our railway operations and the experience for our travelling public.”

The report was also welcomed by the Rail Delivery Group, with its CEO Paul Plummer saying that Digital Railway would create an even more reliable and safer railway.

“Today’s report is an important step in ensuring that the whole industry and its suppliers collaborate efficiently and effectively to deliver the digital railway’s wide-ranging benefits, including better services for customers, more and better jobs for our people, and better value for taxpayers,” Plummer added.

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