These standards have often been criticised as overly complex and adding unnecessary cost.
Network Rail has already updated and streamlined 400 of these standards using a risk-based approach to reduce both complexity and cost, and to encourage innovation.
Suppliers are now being asked to table suggestion of better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway via Network Rail’s new standards challenge process.
The move represents a significant step toward breaking down barriers to make it easier to introduce new ideas and streamlined procedures.
Suppliers and other stakeholders are now able to submit a standards challenge application when they consider the standard to be incorrect, not enable the application of best practice, or drive increased cost without comparable benefit.
Network Rail will review all challenges received, and conduct a rigorous impact assessment across a broad range of output capabilities such as safety, performance, environment and compatibility to make sure the capabilities are not compromised.
Jon Shaw, chief engineer at Network Rail said: “We’ve recently updated our 400 most critical standards but to ensure they always represent current best practice and constantly strive to safely reduce the cost of the railway, we need the help of our wider industry partners as well as experts from other industries and universities.
“The launch of the standards challenge process is the lever for this, providing genuine recognition and incentives to propose more efficient ways of both enhancing and maintaining our railway.”
David Clarke, technical director of the Railway Industry Association, said: “We were delighted last year to assist Network Rail in finding a way to review their standards. The standards challenge was a key recommendation of the Hansford Review into contestability and provides rail suppliers with the ability to question overly rigorous standards thereby unlocking innovation, getting new technologies into the network and reducing costs – ultimately to the benefit of passengers and taxpayers.
“Following two workshops with the rail supply chain, Network Rail have a system by which companies can provide their suggestions and ideas. Now, it is for the industry to come forward with their creative solutions – and we encourage all to do so.
“RIA looks forward to continuing its active role in this initiative – working alongside Network Rail and the wider industry – to ensure railway standards are the most effective and efficient they can be.”
Dura Composites, supplier of composite products for the rail industry, have been working closely with Network Rail to put in place stringent fire safety standards for glass reinforced plastic (GRP) products in a wide range of evacuation and non-evacuation routes.
Tom Bowman, commercial director and material science expert at Dura Composites, said: “GRP products are playing an increasingly important role in the rail industry thanks to their high strength to weight ratio, durability, electrical resistance, and as such, Network Rail wanted to update its fire safety specifications.
“As a result, classifications have been published that cover both structural and non-structural applications. Dura were grateful for the opportunity to take part in the standards challenge and look forward to continuing this work with RIA and Network Rail to bring further innovation to the market.”