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Ahead of Integrated Rail Plan publication, new report highlights supply chain capability delivering major rail projects

Railway Industry Association

5 min read Partner content

The Railway Industry Association (RIA), the voice of the UK rail supply community, has published a new report highlighting the capabilities of the supply chain to deliver major projects on the railways, ahead of the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan likely later this week.

The report, which includes a series of examples from across the industry, documents the expertise and experience of the supply chain in completing rail projects successfully. It also sets out some of the lessons that can be learned from previous schemes, to enable more efficient project delivery.

The key lessons from the report include:

Collaboration and Leadership: Create strategic partnerships with contractors and clients that are based on shared goals. Recruit for and reward positive team behaviours including a continuous learning and development culture and the ability to manage change effectively.

Visibility and long-term investment: Once committed do not look back, share pipelines and plan long-term investment to drive competition, grow supply chain capability and efficiency, and give confidence to the private sector to invest in skills, assets and innovation.

Innovation and SMEs: Support innovation at the earliest stages of a project, take full advantage of supply chain capability including international, SME and cross sectoral ideas and expertise. Harness supply chain skills on system thinking and whole life value.  

Procurement: Engage suppliers early. Publishing transparent procurement pipelines and targeted outcome-focussed procurement models, support competition, efficiency, innovation and delivery. Effective procurement enables the development of intellectual property and unlocks collaborative funding and financing models.

Economic, Environmental and Social Value: Recognise the full economic, environmental and social value that rail brings to the UK.

People Trade and Exports: Celebrate the diversity of the supply chain and its people and promote UK rail expertise and capability internationally.

Examples from the report include work on the Northern Line Extension, reopening of the Northumberland line, East Coast Mainline’s power supply upgrade and the procurement of the London Underground’s Bank Station Capacity Upgrade.

The report comes as the integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands is due to be published shortly, setting out the Government’s ambitions for major schemes including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Transpennine Route Upgrade amongst others. The report is also published during the Government’s ‘Trade Week’ (15 – 19 November 2021) and highlights rail supply chain export capability and potential.                 

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “Major rail projects are complex and sometimes make headlines for all the wrong reasons. So we are today launching the RIA ‘Major Rail Projects’ report, to highlight some of the many successful schemes we don’t always hear about, and the many positive lessons we can learn from them to inform future work and support rail exports going forward. With the Integrated Rail Plan due out shortly, it is now more important than ever to set out the significant value railway projects bring to the country.

“Whether related to track or train, the UK supply chain has shown fantastic capability to deliver major rail projects. We believe this report can play a key role in helping the supply sector build infrastructure and rolling stock which really is fit for the future, whilst also representing good value for the taxpayer. We hope all who read and make use of it find it a useful contribution as we work to build world-class rail in the UK in the months and years ahead.”

Caroline Donaldson, Managing Director at the West Coast Partnership Development, commented: "The Government is making very significant investments in rail infrastructure, including in High Speed Two. West Coast Partnership is working closely with industry and Government to make the most of this investment in high speed rail for the benefit of customers and communities. Understanding the key enablers to successful delivery of major projects is essential to unlock the full potential of rail to support a more productive, healthier and greener economy."

Ceri Evans, Head Of Business Development UK Rail at Bechtel, said: "“The real skill of collaboration isn’t paying lip service because you “have” to do it or because of a contract. Instead, truly collaborative teams have to all go on a journey together, with transparency and trust at the core, utilising the contract fully while leveraging relationships and communication to drive progress and change in a positive way. The outcomes I have experienced with this approach prove to me time and again why it’s so important for authentic collaboration to be at the heart of successful major projects.”

Sue Kershaw, Managing Director of Transportation at Costain, said: “A progressive approach to procurement is vital to facilitate the significant economic, social and environmental value which investment in infrastructure can bring. Procurement needs to be agile, and fundamental to this approach is trust; only by working together across our industry can we ensure that procurement is fit for the future.”

Lucy Prior MBE, Business Growth Director at Trough-Tec Systems, said: "I'm delighted to see this report not only addressing the huge complexity of major projects,  but acknowledging the fact that supply chain, from the top tiers right down through the sub-suppliers, can and does enable massive process improvements. 

“In particular, it's reassuring to see so many case examples from the SME community: as an industry we often say they bring an ability and knowledge that tier ones need to embrace. These case studies actually demonstrate just how important SMEs are in the successful delivery of major projects,  and prove that the earlier they are brought in, the quicker and better the results are. That there are so many examples of success within this report is something to be proud of."

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