Net­work Rail’s plans deemed ‘ro­bust’ by reg­u­la­tor’s con­sul­tants

Rail (UK) - - Network -

Net­work Rail’s emerg­ing plans to op­er­ate, main­tain and re­new the rail net­work be­tween 2019 and 2024 are ‘ro­bust’, ac­cord­ing to in­de­pen­dent risk and as­sur­ance ex­perts Nichols, work­ing on be­half of the Of­fice of Rail and Road.

ORR called in Nichols to check NR’s spend­ing plans for Con­trol Pe­riod 6 on a route-by-route ba­sis and the con­sul­tant re­ports find­ing them ‘clear, con­sis­tent and well-de­vel­oped’. It looked at main­te­nance plans in five of NR’s eight ge­o­graphic routes, op­er­a­tions plans in three routes and 14 re­newals plans cov­er­ing track, sig­nalling, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and plant, struc­tures, earth­works, drainage and build­ings.

For op­er­a­tions, Nichols re­ported that NR had de­vel­oped clear and trans­par­ent tar­gets with its stake­hold­ers and that it un­der­stood what it needed to do to meet these tar­gets. How­ever, it called for more con­sis­tent links be­tween staff num­bers and op­er­a­tional strat­egy, par­tic­u­larly to pro­vide a rapid re­sponse to busy ar­eas, so-called ‘hot spots’.

While main­te­nance plans are clear in terms of unit costs for around 550 stan­dard job types, and the vol­ume of work, Nichols called for more work to dis­cover the costs of non-pro­duc­tive time. This in­cluded fac­tors such as travel time to a job, set-up time and the cost of work in terms of de­lays to trains.

NR has well-de­vel­oped plans for re­newals ac­cord­ing to knowl­edge of as­set con­di­tion as well as safety and per­for­mance stan­dards. Nichols found work­banks were based on achiev­able out­comes and had been planned in con­junc­tion with the right stake­hold­ers. It said that NR’s work­banks were based on safe rail­way op­er­a­tion by us­ing smallscale, like-for-like in mod­ern form re­newals rather than large-scale projects.

Nichols de­scribed re­newals bud­gets as re­al­is­tic, with NR hav­ing built them us­ing real cost in­for­ma­tion from pre­vi­ous work, al­low­ing route as­set man­agers to con­sider lo­cal and na­tional unit rates. The con­sul­tant sug­gests NR does more to ex­plain how and why it de­cides on a par­tic­u­lar rate.

Nichols’ work is part of ORR’s process of de­cid­ing what NR needs to spend to ef­fi­ciently and safely op­er­ate, main­tain and re­new the rail net­work in Con­trol Pe­riod 6 to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of fun­ders (the De­part­ment for Trans­port and Trans­port Scot­land) as well as train and freight op­er­a­tors. Hav­ing de­cided what NR needs to spend and taken ac­count of govern­ment fund­ing, ORR can cal­cu­late the charges op­er­a­tors must pay. ORR ex­pects to pub­lish its draft con­clu­sions next au­tumn, fol­lowed by its fi­nal con­clu­sions early in 2019 for the new charges to take ef­fect from that April.

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