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Future pipelines to boost rail work

The rail industry’s plans for 2014-2019 should help avoid the work stoppages that occurred in the past two years, say contractors.

The Railway Industry Association (RIAGB), which represents contractors including Balfour Beatty Rail, Laing O’Rourke and Carillion Rail, said it was crucial that the supply chain had clearer and more detailed work timelines to avoid work grinding to a halt, as happened between previous rail plans

Following the publication of the rail industry’s Initial Industry Plan (IIP) for 2014-19, known as CP5, an association spokesman told CN: “The important thing that contractors are pushing for is better visibility of work.

“It is a key element of bringing costs down. If we know what work is coming a few years down the line, we can gear up and get in the plant, equipment and skilled staff necessary to do it.”

The plan was set out by stakeholder bodies including Network Rail and train operating companies and focuses on the need to find cost efficiencies as set out in Sir Roy McNulty’s Rail Value for Money Study.

The RIAGB spokesman said the IIP had been published early this year to avoid work blockages.

He said: “We had a problem at the end of CP3 and the start of CP4 (2009-2010), when nothing was happening.

“Everyone is determined it won’t happen again, which is one of the reasons why the IIP has been started early.”

Contractor’s work schedules are set to change as Network Rail comes under pressure to get construction done quickly without impacting on rail services.

Plans to trail radical new procurement methods are already underway however the industry plan highlights all parties’ acceptance of the need to give contractors a better say in the design of infrastructure enhancements going forward through new partnerships.

Network Rail programme director Ian Ballentine told CN (News, 2 June) that the £1bn Edinburgh to Glasgow rail improvement programme was among the future projects that will trial one of seven innovative procurement models.

The plan states: “In tandem with improving the contractual relationship with its partners, Network Rail is seeking to provide greater visibility of future work banks and to provide its delivery partners with greater confidence as to the stability of future workloads.”

The rail operator is establishing a new major projects unit under ‘Project Dime’, which will bid for work as a preferred supplier alongside contractors.

The Investment Projects business will develop alternative proposals to preferred suppliers as an infrastructure project management business and rail consultant in an attempt to help benchmark costs and deliver greater efficiencies.

A Network Rail spokesman told CN that the rail operator would not always be the right group for the job and others could have greater construction experience but the move was designed to enforce greater competition.

As well as changing its procurement processes to allow for a new investment projects business, the rail body is considering creating a new consultancy business capable of servicing the international rail market.

Network Rail is also aiming to reduce both the degree of tender pre-qualification and contractual burdens such as bonds and warranties, contract retention and damage liability.

Climate chamber to test defences against severe weather

Network Rail is looking at establishing a £30m purpose-built climate chamber to help prevent a repeat of incidents such as that which left a Eurostar train stranded in the Channel Tunnel last year.

The rail body has held discussions with European rail operators in countries including Sweden and Finland to take advice on dealing with severe weather such as that experienced last winter in the UK.

Contractors could now be asked to contribute to a new testing facility as well as helping to install new technology designed to resist harsh weather effects, such as extension of third rail heating; deployment of ‘ice phobic’ material on infrastructure and improvements to mobile plant design.

Network Rail wants to install around 4,000 heavy duty switch heaters and provide heating insulation for 18,000 point ends as part of a £350m infrastructure upgrade combating severe weather.

 

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