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Network Rail seeks OLE design tool supplier bespoke for digital railway

Although initial investigations by Network Rail have identified “some potential contender solutions” to electrify all its major routes as part of Digital Railway, none have met the infrastructure owner’s “overall requirement for a fully integrated system”.

As a result, it is on the lookout for “wider market” contender solutions that are either ‘off the shelf’ fully developed systems, or systems that can meet its specific requirements with modification or development.

The tool, which would be used by OLE engineers, is a key part of Network Rail’s drive to “substantially improve” the UK rail network through the concept of a digital railway.

Network Rail has formalised this procurement process in a contract published today, which sets out its ‘expressions of interest’ from potential vendors for the design, development and supply of an OLE design tool that can provide a “pictorial visualization of data and infrastructure, including industry standards data and algorithms concerned with the design of OLE systems”.

However, Network Rail will still have to determine whether or not to “embark on further OJEU [Official Journal of the European Union] actions” to engage with the market for such a solution based on the responses it receives.

In the contract, it lists the scheduled date for award procedures as 2 September 2016. It also estimates the award cost to range between £200,000 and £1.5m.

“We would welcome responses from potential vendors with mature technology products that are potentially capable of meeting our requirement, and who are willing to engage in exploratory discussions, and if required, are willing to allow Network Rail to have the use of a demonstration software package for up to 3 months and provide technical support and guidance to our design team,” the contract added.

Prospective suppliers should access the contract page or provide a brief statement of no more than two pages to

Network Rail’s Digital Railway scheme, which involves all the key players from across the rail industry, has been the centrepiece of major discussions lately, including at the most recent Transport Select Committee hearing.

During the hearing, the programme’s new managing director, David Waboso, warned that digital railway should be introduced in stages to allow time to learn from mistakes and avoid an ‘over-heroic’ approach to the project, which is often hailed has the cheapest and most effective solution to increase capacity.


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Andrew Gwilt   23/07/2016 at 12:58

Some railway lines in the East of England that are not electrified could soon be electrified with AC 25kv OLE such as the Ipswich-Felixstowe, Ipswich-Lowestoft, Ipswich-Cambridge, Ipswich-Peterborough (via Ely), Norwich-Sheringham (via Cromer), Norwich-Great Yarmouth, Norwich-Lowestoft, Norwich-Cambridge and Norwich-Peterborough (via Ely) lines and possibly Marks Tey-Sudbury line that could also be electrified with AC 25kv OLE. As the West Anglia and Great Eastern Main Lines are already electrified with AC 25kv OLE. Plus other branch lines in the Southern Region of England and Southeast England including the North Downs line (parts that are not electrified) that could be electrified with DC 750v 3rd Rail as well Marshlink Line, Uckfield Line, Swanage Line and branch lines in Southwest England and South Wales and branch lines in the West Midlands and East Midlands could also be electrified with AC 25kv OLE and DC 750v 3rd Rail.

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