We are encouraging contractors, suppliers and stakeholders to propose changes to our standards.

Standards are the detailed requirements that underpin how the railway and the delivery of improvement projects are run. The changes are to encourage greater innovation, cost efficiency and third party funding into the rail network, whilst maintaining safety.

We have already updated and streamlined 400 of these standards to reduce both complexity and cost, and to encourage innovation. Suppliers and other stakeholders can proactively suggest better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway via our new standards challenge process.

Safety first

Standards exist to ensure Britain has a safe, high performing and cost efficient railway, but they are often seen as overly complex and adding unnecessary cost. Our response to the Hansford Review identified a number of opportunities to address this by encouraging suppliers and other stakeholders to proactively challenge standards to increase innovation and creativity, and propose more cost effective solutions.

We've adopted a collaborative and iterative approach in developing the new standards challenge process in partnership with the Railway Industry Association (RIA) and a number of key suppliers and stakeholders.

As part of the process, suppliers and other stakeholders can now 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. We 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.

400 standards have already been updated and streamlined


Following the launch of the process, we are progressively introducing a series of incentives to encourage challenges. These include:

  • Providing our corporate recognition of successful applications through jointly authored and promoted case studies
  • Introducing a future category for standards challenge and innovation in industry awards
  • Seeking suppliers to identify potential standards that could be challenged within tender returns
  • Assessing ongoing contract performance in relation to standards challenge and innovation
  • Enabling suppliers and other parties to introduce innovative approaches/products to the industry following a successful application
  • In certain scenarios sharing a proportion of the identified savings realised arising from a successful standards challenge in design and construction projects

As the scope covers Network Rail’s whole portfolio of policies, standards, processes and specifications, including initiating dialogue with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) in relation to Railway Group and Industry Standards, there’s excitement to see what limitations can unanimously be removed and the opportunities that will be enabled through successful challenges.

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.

Jon Shaw, chief engineer at Network Rail

Challenges received so far

As of July 2019, we’ve received 63 challenges where contractors, suppliers and other stakeholders tell us they can improve current best practice, and safely reduce the cost of running the railway. In addition to the 400 most critical standards we’ve updated already, we’ve opened ourselves up for other standards to be challenged if better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway can be suggested. So far, the challenges received relate to buildings & civils (22), track (13), electrical power (13),  quality, safety, health & environment (4), projects (4), Network Rail assurance panel (2), signalling electrical power (2), signalling (1), plant (1) and information management (1). You can download a more technical and detailed list of the standards challenged to date from our downloads for third parties page.

We are reviewing all challenges received, and will conduct a rigorous impact assessment to make sure safety, performance, compatibility and the environment are not compromised.  Of the challenges received to date, 19 have resulted in agreement be reached with the standard owner to modify the standard, and a number of the other challenges are currently being evaluated.

An example challenge: British Steel

British Steel has challenged some designs of our overhead line masts. They believe our current design standards mean some masts are fabrication intensive, use higher cost products and require structural steel not currently produced or stocked in the UK.

We’re evaluating and progressing their challenge through a series of collaborative workshops. The potential benefits their challenge proposes include:

  • UK economic boost, helping increase our UK-sourced steel to over 97 per cent
  • Locally sourced materials, reduced lead time, reduced carbon footprint
  • Lower manufacturing cost
  • Lower material cost
  • Lower transportation cost
  • Potential for up to 50 per cent cost saving for certain designs

Our rail and construction teams have formed a close working relationship with Network Rail, who’ve an excellent record of supporting UK manufacturing. By working in partnership, and accepting challenges like this, we hope to make it easier for Network Rail to source more high quality, cost effective products manufactured in the UK.

John Austin,  account manager, British Steel
British Steel's challenge could mean lower cost overhead line masts in the future

List of challenges to standards received

ApplicantDate ReceivedSubjectAreaSummary of challenge
TSP Projects07 December 2017Modular Steel PlatformsBuildings & CivilsClarification concerning the current prescribed design life of platforms and minimum steel galvanising levels.
British Steel13 November 2017OLE Mast DesignElectrical PowerPotential for simplification of fabricated overhead line masts.
Network Rail10 April 2018Planning & Managing Construction WorkQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentPotential for contractor's Construction Phase Plans to be referenced to the Network Rail template sections.
SNC-Lavalin17 April 2018Track Design Handbook Module 07 GaugingTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin17 April 2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – Electrical ClearancesTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin12 April 2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – Conductor RailTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin12 April 2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – PlatformsTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin12 April 2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – Level CrossingsTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
Kwik-Step Ltd13 April 2018Lineside Access StepsBuildings & CivilsDesign requirements for lineside access steps.
Network Rail13 April 2018NR/L2/RSE/100/GuideNetwork Rail Assurance PanelRequest for document to be withdrawn as it is out of date.
Network Rail17 April 2018Requirements FrameworkProjectsClarification concerning who is accountable for the RRD.
Kwik-Step Ltd16 April 2018Electrical ClearancesElectrical PowerProviding improved clarity in relation to electrical clearance distances.
Kwik-Step Ltd13 April 2018Positions of SafetyQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentProviding improved clarity in relation to positions of safety.
Network Rail08 June 2018Train borne monitoring of traction power contact systems.Electrical PowerClarification in relation to a number of requirements in relation to train borne monitoring of traction power contact systems.
Grand Central19 June 2018Wheel Impact Load DetectionTrackControls applied to trains following measurement of forces at Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) sites.
Amey22 June 2018DNO test pointsQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentProviding test points for DNO supply cubicles.
Amey26 June 2018Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerUsing lower power points heating strips nearer the switch toe.
J Murphy & Sons04 July 2018Line Speed following drainage worksTrackProposal for a more cost-effective regime for track stabilisation following installation of drainage.
Amey04 July 2018Track Affected ZoneTrackProposal to change the influence angle for the track affected zone.
Atkins05 July 2018Buffer LockingTrackUpdate to calculations to include vehicles without buffers, autocoupler limits and lateral movement of through-corridor trains.
Rail Asset Development Ltd06 July 2018Monitoring track during building worksBuildings & CivilsImproving clarity of requirements for monitoring of track in various situations.
Amey Sersa11 July 2018Stretcher Bar settingsTrackImproving clarity of installation and maintenance instructions for new stretcher bars at switches and crossings.
Amey13 July 2018Earth electrode/mat connectionsSignalling
Electrical Power
Clarification of requirements for connecting earth electrode/mats.
Network Rail26 July 2018Bridge StrengtheningBuildings & CivilsMinimum train live loading values applied to bridge strengthening schemes.
Siemens Rail07 August 2018Non-application of Design for Reliability standard to signalling fibre interfaceNetwork Rail Assurance PanelPotential for non-application of requirements for certain commercial off-the-shelf components
Network Rail09 August 2018Clarity around Authority to Work roles.ProjectsClarification concerning authority of certain roles.
Network Rail06 September 2018Engineering Assurance RequirementsElectrical PowerNR/L2/INI/CP0069 listed in the references but document has been withdrawn. Change PRS to RRD/DRRD.
Mott MacDonald09 October 2018Wind Loading on OLE structuresBuildings & CivilsAlignment of wind loading equations to BS EN 50119.
Amey09 October 2018Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerProposed changes to the arrangement drawings for electric points heating equipment.
Amey31 October 2018Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerTransformer terminal arrangements for supplying point strip heaters.
TSP Projects12 November 2018Platform CrossfallBuildings & CivilsAbility to construct platforms that achieve the specified crossfall gradient limits.
Amey21 January 2019Document Revision StrategyProjectsDifference between the revision strategy specifiied in the standard and the way ProjectWise is configured.
Power Supply Projects30 January 2019Cable Testing VoltagesElectrical PowerClarifiction regarding specified testing voltages for single core cable used on 25 kV a.c. systems.
VolkerRail15 February 2019Document FormatSignallingReadability of text in subject index.
J Murphy & Sons21 February 2019BoreholesBuildings & CivilsUse of a single borehole to confirm ground conditions for under-track crossing (UTX).
Hochtief29 March 2019Operational Property DrainageBuildings & CivilsStandard currently does not include operational property drainage systems.
Hochtief01 April 2019Undertrack CrossingsBuildings & CivilsMinimum depths could use a risk-based approach and rational could be provided as to the reason for the requirement for minimum depths.
Hochtief01 April 2019Monitoring track during building worksBuildings & CivilsDuration of monitoring baseline and adopting a risk-based approach.
Hochtief02 April 2019Platform CopingsBuildings & CivilsSafe manual handling / lifting of coping stones, and loading requirements.
VolkerRail16 April 2019Task Briefing SheetsQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentFormat of Task Briefing Sheet.
BAM Nuttall25 April 2019Handback linespeed following track replacementTrackHanding back the track at line speed following infrastructure works to replace the track.
25 April 2019Bridge Filler BeamsBuildings & CivilsAllowance for longitudinal shear resistance offered by metal components protruding into concrete.
J Murphy & Sons25 April 2019Batterry Specification RequirementsElectrical PowerAlternative approach to performance calculation of battery life with photovoltaic system.
J Murphy & Sons25 April 2019Undertrack CrossingsBuildings & CivilsProposed performance specification instead of minimum depth of cover.
Osborne25 April 2019Alternative Back-up Power SuppliesElectrical PowerInclude Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) & Battery back-up supplies to signalling Principal Supply Points and Relocatable Equipment Buildings.
Skanska UK25 April 2019Functionality in DesignBuildings & CivilsIntegrated design approach using Functionality in Design.
Skanska UK25 April 2019Design Methodology of Geotechnical StructuresBuildings & CivilsAlternative design and calculation methods for geotechnical structures.
Arup10 April 2019Recess beneath Platform EdgeBuildings & CivilsStandard design dimensions do provide a TSI compliant recess.
Amey29 April 2019Working on or near Signalling Power Distribution equipmentSignalling
Electrical Power
Type of equipment covered by the ‘test before touch' procedure.
Amey29 April 2019Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerSecuring of Point Heating Strips
Kier Professional Services22 May 2019Requirements for FootbridgesBuildings & CivilsInconsistencies between NR/L3/CIV/020, the standard footbridge design described in NR/CIV/TUM/400 and associated drawings, and DfT standard ‘Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations'.
Hochtief03 June 2019Requirements for Clay BricksBuildings & CivilsBS 3921 has been withdrawn hence brick is no longer certified to this standard
Hochtief04 June 2019Water Supply (Water Fittings) RegulationsBuildings & CivilsDuties required by the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.
Hochtief04 June 2019Engineering Assurance RequirementsTrackEngineering Assurance Arrangements for Track Engineering Projects outputs
Balfour Beatty07 June 2019Warning sign dimensions for substationsElectrical PowerWarning sign dimensions for substations
AECOM11-Jun-19DC circuit breaker protection settingsElectrical PowerImproved guidance for calculation of protection settings for DC circuit breakers
Hochtief13 May 2019H&S File Memorandum of Agreement and Deliverable Document MatrixInformation ManagementCombine two forms into one.
Hochtief13 May 2019CRE Competence RequirementsProjectsCRE competence requirements for off-site fabrication / quality assurance.
Hochtief13 May 2019Requirements for doweling platform coping stonesBuildings & CivilsClarity on the requirements for doweling coping stones and provison of method for protecting worker from falls from height / moving trains whist working on platforms.
Hochtief01 May 2019Design check categories for platform pilingBuildings & Civils
Clarification on category of design checks for plaform piling.
Arcadis UK17 June 2019Use of centralisers when soil nailingBuildings & CivilsProposal to not use centralisers when using self-drilling soil nails.

How to submit a challenge

We are encouraging contractors, suppliers and other stakeholders to proactively suggest better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway via our standards challenge process. You can submit a challenge to any of our standards by reading the guidance for completing the standards challenge application and completing a standards challenge form found on our downloads for third parties page. If after reading the catalogue of Network Rail standards you'd like to make a challenge, you can request a copy of the standard by emailing the standards management team: standardsmanagement@networkrail.co.uk

Network Rail standards

Catalogue of Network Rail Standards
2 MB
Issue 114
Guidance for completing the Standards Challenge Application
292 KB
Standards Challenge Form
48 KB
Standards challenged to date – July 2019
43 KB
Accessing Network Rail standards for contractors and suppliers
179 KB