Storm repair pressure must not divert focus from major projects, says new HS2 boss
Knee jerk reactions to fears about the resilience of the railways must not divert attention from long term planning and major projects like High Speed 2 (HS2), senior rail boss Simon Kirby said last week.
He said there was an obvious need to focus on the “here and now” immediately after the recent brutal winter storms that caused severe damage on sections of the rail network.
However, he said the focus on flood and storm repairs did not mean that spending on mega-schemes like the £42.6bn HS2 should be called into question.
Kirby is currently Network Rail Infrastructure Projects managing director and soon to be chief executive of HS2 Ltd.
“We’ve got to focus on a long term solution,” Kirby told NCE. “I’m not sure you link the two [the need to pay for storm damage and the cost of HS2]. “We’ve got to focus on a long term solution. And HS2 has full support.
“I’m hugely excited at the prospect of building a new railway and feeling very confident,” he said, adding that he would seek to procure the services of the best contractors in the world for the project.
“We want world class suppliers of civil engineering. It will be an international procurement process as happened with Crossrail.”
Network Rail has already planned for the growing threat of climate change, and early last year included £300M to improve climate change resilience in its spending plans for control period 5 (CP5), which starts next month. This was in response to similar adverse weather the previous winter.
This amount was approved by the rail regulator and Network Rail has not yet sought to revise it in response to the recent weather damage - although a mechanism exists for reopening the CP5 ruling in special circumstances.
“Once we’re through the next few weeks there will be conversations about what the longer term needs are,” said Kirby. “Most of our [railway’s] civils infrastructure is 100 plus years old - dating back toVictorian times. The storms have brought to a greater height the debate over the scale of investment needed. And in the longer term, the question will be asked: ‘Have we got enough funding?’”
Businesses and engineers have already begun asking longer term questions, such as whether the Great Western Main Line should be diverted away from the South Coast near Dawlish (News last week). Storm surges washed away an 80m section of track in early February.
But Network Rail has no preferred solution yet, and it said that developing alternative routes would involve discussions with local politicians and businesses.
It would be months before a decision is made on such a diversion and years before it could be realised, Kirby added.
Network Rail is also leading a major effort to reinstate railways that suffered storm and flood damage in recent weeks.
“Our reaction over recent weeks has been getting what is damaged fixed and reopened,” said Kirby.
Most significant is the repair work to the Great Western Main Line at Dawlish in early February. Principal contractor Bam Nuttall is leading the remediation work (NCE 13 February).
Despite more weather-induced setbacks Network Rail hopes to reopen the line by mid-April.Despite more weather-induced setbacks Network Rail hopes to reopen the line by mid-April.
Procurement on track
Network Rail is coming good on its commitment to award work early for the next five year funding regime, with 70% of contracts now awarded.
At the corresponding point ahead of the control period 4 spending period, this was somewhere around 20%.
The commitment to award work early is part of a new approach where it will work more collaboratively with fewer suppliers (NCE 5 December 2013).
Kirby stressed that while some may suffer as a result of not winning work, the benefits include greater visibility of work over a longer period and greater potential for safety, cost and sustainability gains.
“Many clients are looking at how you get best value, not just the lowest cost,” he said.
“Gone are the days when you can buy work. We now use safety as a parameter to choose a contractor.”
Safety and sustainability account for a “reasonably large proportion” of the tender, he added.
“You’ve got a balance for each.”
Two years ago a typical tender for Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects enhancement works would not have included criteria for sustainability; health and safety would have been rated (pass or fail) and the commercial element typically would be weighted 50%/60% leaving the rest to be allocated to the technical elements.
Now with “Safety and Sustainability Development” being one of its 12 core capabilities contractor’s bids are required to reflect the shift.
For the recent National Electrification Programme (NEP) tender weightings of 15% for safety and 5% for sustainability were applied, with the same total amount (20%) being applied to the commercial offer.
Network Rail said that scores for ABC Electrification, which won the Wales & Western Framework demonstrate the impact of this approach. ABC had the highest safety, sustainability and commercial scores.