Network Rail has awarded a contract worth up to £257m to VP Plc for the hire, supply and maintenance of portable plant.

The contract is for an initial period of six years from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2026, with options to extend to 31 March 2028. It includes all small plant for the railway powered by external means – such as rail drills, torque wrenches, chainsaws and handheld tamping machines – and any related consumables, from oil to repairs and spare parts.

The 13 agreements – one for each of Network Rail’s routes – cover the maintenance and repair of 28,000 items of Network Rail-owned small plant as well as the hire and supply of other small plant.

Benefits include access to more than 235 local depots, reducing delivery times; enhanced service levels; a wear-and-tear damage waiver and Bluetooth tracking of all items, helping to prevent loss and theft. Cost savings of £2.5m are forecast.

There will be 42 Level 3 NVQ apprenticeships in Construction Civil Engineering: Plant Maintenance created with VP Plc over the six years as part of the contract.

The contract also means more options for Network Rail’s routes to switch from using owned, petrol-operated small plant to more sustainable, battery-operated hired items.

Garry Pyne, lead sourcing manager, Network Rail, said: ‘The plant now available for hire is innovative and modern, more reliable and cheaper to maintain. It is better for the environment and its lower vibration levels mean it is safer for our employees.

‘The battery-operated vegetation clearance kit is much quieter, which is better for people living by the railway.

‘We are also rolling out Bluetooth tracking on desirable items, so they are less likely to be lost or stolen. There’s a real opportunity and incentive to switch to hiring new small plant and start to phase out our older, owned plant.’