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Network Rail to shake up standards in a bid to tempt third party cash

Network rail track works

Network Rail is inviting contractors, suppliers and stakeholders to propose changes to its standards to try to remove the barriers to third party investment in UK rail.

The rail operator said the move was part of a wider agenda to make the public sector organisation behave more like a private sector organisation.

As part of its Open for Business initiative, Network Rail said it had already streamlined 400 standards to reduce cost, complexity and encourage innovation while maintaining safety standards.

Stakeholders will now be asked to proactively suggest better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway via Network Rail’s new standards challenge process. Comments can be made when parties consider the standard to be incorrect, not enable the application of best practice, or drive increased cost without comparable benefit.

The move will no doubt be welcomed by those wanting to put forward market led proposals for rail projects. Last month, the Department for Transport published new policy on how it would view third party funded rail projects. At the same time, Network Rail published a list of its projects for which it hopes to receive external funding.

Network Rail said it will review all challenges received and conduct a “rigorous” impact assessment across a broad range of output capabilities such as safety, performance, environment and compatibility.

It said following the launch of the process, incentives which met the criteria would be progressively introduced to encourage challenges.

Network Rail chief engineer Jon Shaw said: “We’ve recently updated our 400 most critical standards but to ensure they always represent current best practice and constantly strive to safely reduce the cost of the railway, we need the help of our wider industry partners as well as experts from other industries and universities.

“The launch of the standards challenge process is the lever for this, providing genuine recognition and incentives to propose more efficient ways of both enhancing and maintaining our railway.”

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