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Network Rail makes reforms to attract private investors

Network rail tracks rail train

Network Rail has introduced sweeping reforms as it seeks greater private investment in rail schemes.

As part of the reforms, Network Rail’s asset protection and optimisation (Aspro) teams will now be subject to making a number of service level commitments to improve relationships with private investors and speed up the process of responding to private finance proposals.

New service level commitments include responding to third parties within five working days of contact being made, making secondary contact within 15 working days of initial contact and returning any design data identified as being on the critical path within 25 working days of receipt.

Other commitments include reviewing the implementation programme and providing comments to the customer, and confirming in writing whether the relevant access permissions have been obtained or not within 20 working days of the consultation.

“We’ve worked with a number of internal teams and industry colleagues, plus consulted Amey in a special advisory capacity, and formulated Aspro service levels with which other organisations can hold us to account,” Network Rail explained in a statement.

In addition to service level commitments, Network Rail has also introduced customer satisfaction surveys for investors and builders who it claims “have historically viewed Aspro teams as gatekeepers and difficult to work with”.

An ‘industry risk fund’ has also been established by Network Rail to take the risk and fund liabilities when projects encounter certain unforeseen industry related problems.

“Network Rail has looked at 41 separate categories of risk that could cause problems, delays or extra cost to a project on the railway and analysed where it can take ownership of that risk, or made it clear who will cover it,” it has claimed.

Network Rail open for business programme director David Ollerhead said: “Many of these commitments are already starting to bear fruit, including: delivering increased transparency of, and more consistent performance by, our Aspro teams; closer collaboration with our suppliers to encourage creativity and innovation in delivery through challenging standards to enable cost reduction; greater clarity and sign-posting for third parties in engaging with Network Rail from our enhanced website.”

Reforms by Network Rail to attract greater private investment in rail schemes have come after the government’s call for ideas for privately funded railways was last month dismissed by the boss of the rejected Windsor Link Railway (WLR) as a “utopian dream” because acceptance criteria keep changing.

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