Skip to content

Increasing our capability and capacity

Although Network Rail owns and operates Britain's railway, we believe we shouldn't be the only organisation that can build on it.

Opportunities for third parties

To support this approach, we've committed to regularly updating a document of opportunities and projects other organisations can fund. Details of how this list and process is managed can be found on our opportunities for third parties page.


To help other organisations get involved in railway projects, we have introduced the concept of contestability – putting projects out to market for other organisations to deliver.

In doing so we are bringing more innovation and creativity to the railway industry, increased value for money for the tax-payer and better benchmarking data to assess how we are performing, as evidenced in the case study below.

Read Open for Business supporting information for pilot contestable projects found on the Opportunities for third parties page.

How we define a contestable project:

Contestable projects are funded projects that can be delivered by parties other than Network Rail, where it is safe to do so. This is different to the normal contracting process because some elements of the delivery manager role, currently delivered by Network Rail’s capital works delivery teams, will be offered to the market as part of the contract. In addition, the contract will be based, where appropriate, on outcomes and performance-based requirements. These non-Network Rail parties will be able to compete for and deliver renewal and enhancement schemes. The aim is to increase rail sector innovation and efficiency through minimising barriers to delivery, developing the industry supply chain and encouraging a multiplicity of suppliers.”

Engineers working on track over bridge
We're opening up, putting more railway projects out to market for other organisations to deliver

Pilot contestable projects

We have published a document with information to support the roll out of our pilot contestable projectsIt contains high level information for third parties interested in delivering Network Rail contestable work.

A list of funding opportunities will be republished in the near future.

Read Open for Business supporting information for pilot contestable projects found on the Opportunities for third parties page. Since 2018, when this document was published, Network Rail has changed organisationally and, while the principles remain the same, contestable projects can be delivered within the regions rather than just being route led.

Case study – Stoke Maintenance Delivery Unit (MDU)

Many of the smaller infrastructure projects we carry out can be delivered in a way that does not impact the operational railway. Known as ‘high street' projects, they are often fairly simple office buildings and depots like at Stoke MDU. By reviewing our approach to procurement and standards, we’ve been able to open-up to new suppliers and businesses who wouldn’t normally get to work with directly with us on these types of projects.

The new design, from contractor Cleshar, uses a low carbon material called Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) which is much cheaper, greener, and quicker to install. SIPs are often used in the wider construction industry but are not commonly used within Network Rail.

Artist's impression of Maintenance Delivery Unit (MDU) at Stoke
Visualisation of Stoke MDU

By putting work out to market in this way and working with new suppliers, we could potentially save 30% on our £200m MDU portfolio.

Watch the video below to find out more about the Stoke Maintenance Delivery Unit

Dedicated corporate finance team

We are increasing our capability and capacity to deal with this new way of working with the wider market. We have put in place a dedicated Corporate Finance and Business Development team to cater for the increased interest in railway projects this new approach will bring. Their role is to help facilitate schemes which have a Network Rail wide impact or that require national coordination, making the funding of the railway improvement projects by other organisations as easy and as smooth as possible.

Business development directors

A team of dedicated business development directors has been put in place on each of our routes to ensure we have people with the right skills to work collaboratively with businesses, local authorities and other public sector bodies to bring in new sources of funding to the railway. You can contact your local business development director if you would like to find out more about a specific project, or our work on Open for Business.

Together we can end domestic abuse