A different landscape: how the Digital Railway is catalysing change in supplier relationships

David Brewer | 02 Jun 2017 | Comments

The number of rail passengers has doubled over the last 20 years. This has largely been achieved through the use of longer trains and squeezing the maximum capacity out of existing services, rather than the introduction of new infrastructure. This approach has run its course in areas where the network is full. Building new capacity through the likes of HS2 and Crossrail is part of the picture, but we also need to unlock the full potential of the infrastructure we already have.

The Digital Railway programme at Network Rail is charting new territory on many fronts. The work is different to that of traditional projects, and so are the relationships. Leveraging the benefits of the programme requires different relationships between technology developers, infrastructure owners and train operators.

Funding and financing are also likely to necessitate different ways of working. Fundamental change is required from both Network Rail and suppliers and questions of whether we understand the change and can navigate it remain open. The Digital Railway is an industry challenge, not a Network Rail challenge. Are we any closer to understanding what this means for suppliers?

Part of the problem lies in that word - suppliers. Despite efforts by the Digital Railway team to set labels to one side, seeing Network Rail as the client and other organisations as suppliers conditions a certain set of expectations about roles and relationships. It is only when we move past these labels that we will really embrace the sort of industry leadership which is being called for and start to think more clearly about contributions based upon capability..........

Please see here to see read the full article from David Brewer, market director, Strategic Rail at Atkins. This article was first published in Rail Professional's May edition.