In a bid to see new ideas, greater efficiencies and more investment in the railway, Network Rail is reviewing and amending its standards, practices and approach to risk management governing how it works with other organisations wishing to build on or near the railway. When working with Network Rail, third parties can expect to see better working practices, streamlined and consistent processes, and a slicker, less bureaucratic structure under a more consistent framework.
Following the Hansford Review into how barriers can be reduced to make it easier for other organisations to invest in and build on the railway, the move comes as the organisation’s response – their Open for Business programme – gains momentum and the industry responds with interest that Network Rail is opening up to new ideas from the supply chain that bring value for money and innovation.
Vital to economic growth, the railway creates jobs, enables the building of houses, connects communities, and enhances the productive potential of the UK economy by up to £10.2 billion a year. Network Rail directly employs 38,000 people, and supports another 117,000 jobs in their supply chain.
Officially Europe’s safest railway, it falls to Network Rail’s asset protection and optimisation (ASPRO) teams to make sure any work on or near the railway is done safely and to the right standards. Yet these standards and practices can sometimes mean it is difficult for third parties to deliver railway projects. Recognising this, the railway operator is implementing a number of reforms to the way their ASPRO organisation works, which will break down barriers and make it easier for other organisations to invest in and build on the railway.
A national ASPRO framework has been produced and is in the process of being rolled out across the business. This will support in driving a consistent and transparent approach for third parties working with Network Rail, meaning there will be clearly defined processes, working practices, responsibilities and contacts right across the business. Third party promoters of projects on the railway will note they receive a quicker, more reliable service when dealing with Network Rail. All ASPRO teams at Network Rail have been requested to be compliant with the newly created framework by September 2018, and further processes will be defined to support the variety of external projects which their ASPRO teams will need to engage with.
To raise the professional competency, assurance and drive consistency within Network Rail’s route ASPRO teams, a new national professional head of ASPRO role has been created. Mona Sihota has been appointed to the role, bringing nearly 30 years of railway experience spanning design, construction and asset management. This newly created position capitalises on Mona’s previous experience as professional head of drainage to now include off-track (lineside, vegetation and boundaries) and ASPRO, as there are significant synergies between the areas of responsibility.
Additionally, Network Rail has created roles for a head of ASPRO in each of their eight geographic routes, who will work with project sponsors on third party requirements. They will be directly accountable to the industry for ensuring service levels are delivered. The positions are in the process of being recruited.
Service level commitments
Committed to making it easier for third parties to deliver work on or near the railway, Network Rail has worked with and consulted AMEY in a special advisory capacity to formulate ASPRO service levels by which other organisations can hold them to account. By having service levels in place, third party promoters of projects on the railway can know what to expect from Network Rail’s service and when to expect it by.
Tried and tested
The changes being implemented to Network Rail’s ASPRO organisation are part of a much wider business transformation. Today’s announcement marks the culmination of a year-long project which included a trial on Network Rail’s Anglia route. A new streamlined approach to ASPRO was proposed, along with a new structure and improved high-level ASPRO framework, all of which the Anglia route volunteered to trial, testing much slicker, less bureaucratic and easier to implement ASPRO processes. The findings of this trial are informing the roll out nationally and it is these transformations which will help reduce barriers, making it easier for other organisations to invest in and build on the railway.
Mona Sihota, Network Rail’s new national professional head of ASPRO said: ‘The path to changing the culture and behaviours of a large organisation such as Network Rail will take time, however we are committed to becoming open for business and the journey has begun. We’ve published our high-level national framework and have begun drafting the processes and procedures to support the variety of external party projects we will engage with. In addition, we’ve produced our national policy around ASPRO so that we maintain line of sight to our national ASPRO objectives.
‘Supporting these documents, we will revamp our ASPRO website and build in the systems and tools to monitor and measure our internal performance indicators. I look forward to the opportunities ahead and I will be open and transparent with our journey. Network Rail ASPRO will continue to listen to the industry via regular meetings so that we can share our progress and learn where we can improve.’