Network Rail has today announced the preferred bidders for the delivery of its £800m conventional track renewals and enhancements programme for the 2014-19 funding period, as well as a change to the way the company’s growing ‘high output’ track programme will be delivered.
Britain’s railways are busier than ever. Not only are there more trains than ever before, they are also heavier and faster – meaning more frequent maintenance and renewals are needed to keep the tracks in the right condition.
Over the current funding period, which runs from April 2014 to March 2019, Network Rail will renew more than 7,000km of track – enough to stretch from London to Mumbai – as part of a £25bn investment programme to build a bigger, better railway for Britain.
Network Rail’s track strategy is split into three specific work streams: plain line (conventional); switches and crossings; and plain line (high output). Following a competitive procurement process, three bidders – Babcock, Carillion and Colas – have been successful in winning work across seven geographic lots to deliver conventional plain line track works worth around £375m in total over the five year period.
Switches and crossings (S&C) renewals will be delivered using an ‘alliance’ approach, combining the skills of designer, installer and Network Rail. Tenderers bid as pre-formed alliances with two – Amey Sersa and Colas URS – each winning work on one of two larger alliance areas worth up to £400m over the next ten years. The alliance model means Network Rail and its delivery partners will work together with aligned goals and objectives to efficiently deliver S&C works.
Steve Featherstone, Network Rail track programme director, said: “Today, there are a million more trains on our network than a decade ago and that number increases every year. Working with our delivery partners, we will deliver a massive programme of work to maintain, renew and enhance thousands of miles of track over the next five years, with the goal of providing a more reliable railway for passengers and freight.”
Also today, Network Rail has announced it will not be re-tendering the contract for the delivery of its national high output track renewals programme. Instead it will be taking direct control by insourcing its principal contractor team when the existing contract expires in March 2015. High output track renewals allow Network Rail to replace more and more track while allowing trains to run safely on adjacent lines, minimising disruption to services.
Bringing in house the high output team currently employed by AmeyCOLAS will create a less complex organisation with greater stability. It will support Network Rail’s commitment to further improvements in workforce safety, train performance and value for money and enable long term investment in people and machinery to support Network Rail’s track renewals programme. Around 1,200 people work on the high output programme, around half of whom are affected by this announcement.
Steve Featherstone continued: “Our full-time, professional high output track renewals workforce is fundamental to delivering a safe, reliable railway. By creating a single team within Network Rail we can make step changes in training and development in order to further improve safety and productivity within this key part of the industry.”
High output track renewal involves large, automated ‘factory trains’ which are owned by Network Rail and typically each work five nights a week on the network. The renewals are completed overnight with regular trains passing on adjacent lines. Network Rail’s operation comprises five ballast cleaning systems and two track relaying systems. Around 65% of all track replaced on the network is completed by the high output team.