The UK’s network of signalling is ageing and with the ever-increasing volume of key infrastructure that will soon need to be replaced, Network Rail and the wider industry have been advised by the Office of Rail and Road on how to conduct these renewals whilst addressing the rise in costs.
The ORR published a signalling market study in November 2021, unlocking key insights as to how competition within the market and value for money has been stifled as the upgrades and renewals costs spiral alongside the consistent rising inflation of the current economic climate.
Network Rail has implemented measures to accommodate many of the key recommendations that have stemmed from the study, the most significant of which being to its procurement strategy for its Train Control Systems Framework (TCSF). This framework awards suppliers with places to renew and enhance signalling across the coming two Control Periods between 2024 to 2034.
The vital framework improvements consist of ensuring greater guarantees for suppliers around volumes of work, whilst supplying support availability to new entrants that further develop products for the GB market.
Further steps from Network Rail include measures to enhance the cooperation between suppliers at interfaces of technology, which will remove the barriers they face when they do not have existing equipment installed on the network, thus relying on collaboration to unlock the necessary technology. Suppliers that want to win a place on the framework will need to demonstrate a commitment to working cooperatively.
The ORR states that there are currently two recommendations still yet to be delivered upon, both predicated on improving the internal culture within the organisation, prioritising “the value and long-term benefit of competition and incentives to make pro-competitive choices.”
Generally satisfied with Network Rail’s overall delivery of the recommendations, the ORR will continue to work closely with the infrastructure owner to ensure that the remaining two recommendations are completed.
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