New agreement paves way for new initiatives in rail procurement

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Dec/Jan 2015

Don Clarke, RISQS board member, details how the transformation from Achilles Link-up to RISQS, and the signing of an historic agreement, will benefit both buyers and suppliers working in the rail industry.

2014 was a busy year for the rail industry, with a number of significant changes taking place – including the introduction of a new industry standard audit system and the transformation of the industry’s pre-qualification system.

In November, the industry experienced yet another historic milestone with the signing of an agreement between pre-qualification services provider Achilles and the RISQS (Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme) board.

The agreement solidifies the partnership between the RISQS board and Achilles, who will provide all the pre-qualification and audit services for the scheme.

The agreement also ensures the pre-qualification scheme is run by the industry, for the industry, with the RISQS board governed by 21 industry professionals; from industry bodies, principal contractors, train operating companies and infrastructure managers.

The restructure aims to ensure that the customer base, comprising more than 110 buying organisations and 3,900 suppliers, is receiving a scheme which is working smarter and delivering the cutting edge innovations required.

The agreement ensures RISQS continues to make improvements to maximise benefits to the rail industry, while at the same time giving suppliers a greater voice in how the scheme is run.

However, suppliers and buyers will notice a number of changes have already begun to help gain efficiencies in their business including an improved audit process, sustainability, and a more collaborative industry-based approach.


The spotlight on sustainability has steadily been getting brighter in recent years, with an increasing number of rail companies taking efforts to include sustainability measures in their procurement processes.

For example, suppliers on the HS2 project, ultimately owned by the Department for Transport (DfT), must adhere to a sustainability policy that includes a requirement on the use of local suppliers to deliver ‘social value’, as well as the traditional sustainability areas such as reducing waste and environmental impact.

The Crossrail project, a joint venture between Transport for London and DfT, is also requiring suppliers to use materials that are sourced sustainably and to minimise their impact on the environment during the construction project.

The rail industry has for a long time, and with good reason, focused on health and safety issues and ensuring suppliers adhere to the required safety standards when providing goods and services.

But recent years have seen the focus start to shift towards including pre-qualification questions relating to corporate social responsibility, especially in regards to environmental risk, carbon footprints and sustainability.

RISQS is well aware of the changing needs of the industry and a working group, in conjunction with Achilles, is currently refining new pre-qualification questions to ensure suppliers’ sustainability policies and procedures are meeting buyers’ changing requirements.

Changing regulations and legislation has meant buyers are moving to take into account new issues and responsibilities, and accordingly have dramatically changed their procurement requirements.

RISQS is already taking steps to modernise the pre-qualification process to include meeting buyer’s needs both now and in the coming years.

Industry insight

Changes in the rail industry are moving at an increasingly rapid pace, which is why it has never been more important that the industry’s pre-qualification scheme remains in touch and up-to-date with the latest industry developments.

Being a body ‘for the industry by the industry’ means RISQS offers an unequalled understanding of the processes involved in procurement.

All board members are actively involved in the procurement process for their prospective companies, meaning RISQS understands the practicalities involved in working with suppliers.

During a time of great change and investment in rail, it’s vital the sector plays a greater role in shaping its own supplier qualification scheme, to ensure decisions are of maximum benefit to everyone in the rail industry.

This includes providing equal opportunities for buyers and suppliers on how to resolve issues facing the industry and create efficiencies and cost savings.

RISQS will be working with Achilles to ensure the best interests of the industry are always taken into account.

Taking a collaborative approach can lead to industry-wide improvements, including in safety and corporate responsibility. Working together means buyers can reduce costs related to making procurement decisions at the same time as cutting down on the work required from suppliers when tendering for works.

RISQS has heard from both buyers and suppliers in the industry who are frustrated with the amount of duplication required in some procurement processes.

True collaboration between buyers will considerably reduce the amount of duplication, providing cost savings and reducing pressure on resources in procurement departments.

Improved audit process

At the beginning of 2014, Achilles, in consultation with the RISQS board, introduced a new audit process to ensure it met the current requirements of the industry. The new audit ensures the validation process is targeted to the goods and services provided by the industry.

RISQS has taken steps to ensure the process includes a base audit for suppliers which may import risk to the infrastructure through their supply chain and then the option of a targeted higher level audit for those suppliers involved in Sentinel, Railway Interface Planning and On-track Plant Operations.

These steps ensure the process is targeted and provides the checks and balances required by buyers in a more efficient and effective manner.

RISQS was also keen to see the new process reduce the amount of duplication that had previously been present in the audit process.

A number of buyers were asking for suppliers to undergo additional audits and the targeted approach is about ensuring the questions buyers need answers to are already being asked.

In a short period of time RISQS has already taken big steps to help make pre-qualification and audit a more efficient and effective process to meet the needs of the entire rail industry.

The new agreement between RISQS and Achilles has paved the way for further improvement and collaboration within the rail industry.

These changes ensure the rail industry has every opportunity to grow and expand in 2015 without compromising on quality, safety or sustainability.


RISQS, formerly known as Achilles Link-up, supports the GB rail industry in the management of supply chain risk. The scheme was developed to provide a route to qualification for suppliers of products and services procured by the rail industry with the aim of becoming the preferred route for suppliers to engage with their customers in an efficient and effective manner.

The scheme is governed by the RISQS board: Network Rail, CECA, TfL, Arup, RIA, RICA, RPA, Telent, Go-Ahead Group, RSSB, Balfour Beatty Rail, First Group, Tata Steel, Siemens, ATOC, Costain, Atkins Global, C Spencer Ltd, Rail Alliance and BAM Nuttall.

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