The challenge statements have been created to support our technical strategy and the railway’s future vision as set out in the Rail Technical Strategy

Each challenge statement details a specific business obstacle and provides detail on definition, root cause analysis, priority areas of focus and a section outlining guidance for research and development.

The aim is to raise industry awareness of our priority challenges and promote research and development into new ideas and technologies to solve them. The challenges will form the foundation of our investment strategy for Control Period 6 (2019-2024) and, once solved, have the potential to deliver significant business benefits.

We will continue to add detail and further challenge statements.

Next steps

If you think you have a solution or an idea that you would like to speak to us about then please fill in the research and development challenge form (docx) and email it to R&D@networkrail.co.uk.

If your idea or proposal sparks interest, we will invite you in to present to us.

If we want to take your idea forward, you could receive any of the following:

  • potential funding – limited amounts available from Network Rail
  • data provisions to help develop your product
  • opportunities to engage and seek input and expertise from our engineers
  • introductions to our test facility Rail Innovation & Development Centres or support in identifying appropriate test locations along the routes
  • support in obtaining external funding opportunities
  • support with any Network Rail processes – in particular product acceptance
  • honest and open commercial conversations
  • knowledge and understanding of our Rail Industry Readiness Levels (RIRLs) to facilitate your product development and support preparation for implementation.

We are very eager to work with the supply chain and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to assist in the development of ideas, products and challenges. We are keen to open up commercial conversations anywhere possible, as well as direct to other external funding opportunities.

Network Rail actively encourages suppliers and stakeholders to proactively challenge our standards to increase innovation and creativity and to reduce costs. If your proposal directly addresses a Network Rail standard, please complete a standard change application form

Find out more

Information is a strategically critical resource, a corporate asset that is vital to our future and the future of our industry partners. Our telecommunications network should serve the communication requirements of all rail industry customers.

  1. Data – Data quality, confidence and assurance (PDF)

Buildings and Civils assets within Network Rail comprise bridges, tunnels, earthworks, station buildings, drainage, risks from mine workings and much more. They are a rich and diverse asset group with an average age of greater than 100 years. They are frequently heterogeneous, complex, safety critical, listed and have extremely high impact of failure.

  1. Bridges – Establishing condition of hidden critical elements (PDF)
  2. Bridges – Scour prevention and management (PDF)
  3. Bridges – Tenanted arches (PDF)
  4. Buildings – Provide a safe and efficient method to enable building facade inspections without impacting on the operation of the environs (PDF)
  5. Buildings and Architecture – Extending the Life of an Existing Footbridge Asset for 10 years Within an 8 Hour Working Period (PDF)
  6. Buildings and Architecture – Provide a Safe and Efficient Method to Enable Non Destructive Testing of Hidden Metallic Standalone Column (PDF)
  7. Buildings and Architecture – Self-maintaining Materials (PDF)
  8. Buildings and Architecture – Transferring Customers Across Tracks (PDF)
  9. Buildings and Architecture – Surface Condensation Reducing Slip Resistance (PDF)
  10. Bridges – Preventing bridge strikes (PDF)
  11. Structures – Health monitoring and prognosis (PDF)
  12. Drainage – Efficient and effective drainage interventions (PDF)
  13. Drainage – Improving drainage asset management decision making (PDF)
  14. Drainage – Improving drainage system performance (PDF)
  15. Drainage – Safe and efficient drainage inspections and monitoring (PDF)
  16. Drainage – Understanding drainage system capability (PDF)
  17. Earthworks – Detection of asset failure by means other than train drivers (PDF)
  18. Tunnels – Alternative methods for patch repairs in tunnels (PDF)
  19. Tunnels – Capability assessment tool for tunnel masonry linings (PDF)
  20. Tunnels – High output tunnel repairs and enlargement (PDF)
  21. Mining – Mitigation of Shallow Mining Risks (PDF)
  22. Mining – Mining Ground Investigations (PDF)

Electrification and plant (E&P) encompasses the overhead catenary (wires) system with associated distribution equipment from the national grid (electrification).  The plant part is stand by signalling, point heating and pumps among other assets.

  1. Electrical safety (PDF)
  2. Electrical power – Intelligent assets and condition monitoring (PDF)
  3. Electrical power – Smarter, more efficient electrification (PDF)

Level crossings represent one of the biggest public safety risks on the railway. They are the main interface between the rail and the road networks. There are approximately 6,000 level crossings across the network, ranging from passive crossings with simplest risk controls through to public road crossings with active risk control.

  1. Level crossings – Preventing an incident or near miss at a level crossing due to behaviours (PDF)

We want to explore where remote condition monitoring (RCM) sensor technology and advanced analytic techniques can be combined to enable a transition to predictive and preventative maintenance.  Predictive and preventative maintenance will reduce time to fix upon failure, increase efficiency, optimise reliability and ultimately provide better value to the end customer.

  1. Maintenance – Enabling transition to predict and prevent maintenance regimes (PDF)
  2. Robotics – Automating inspection and maintenance activities (PDF)

This includes on-track Plant (OTP), on-track machines (OTM), portable and transportable plant, depot plant and fixed plant. With the increased demands for network capacity, we need to find technological solutions that reduce or eliminate the risk of human error.

  1. Plant – Plant strikes (PDF)
  2. Plant – Understanding plant better and improving fitness for purpose (PDF)