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 many of our standards to reduce both complexity and cost, and to encourage innovation. Suppliers and other stakeholders can also proactively suggest better ways of maintaining and enhancing the railway via our 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 have introduced a series of incentives to encourage challenges. These include:

  • Providing our corporate recognition of successful applications through jointly authored and promoted case studies
  • Including a category for innovation and 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

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 have 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 March 2020, we’ve received 119 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 (44), electrical power (28), track (23), projects (6), quality, safety, health & environment (5),  Network Rail assurance panel (3), signalling (3), signalling electrical power (2), maintenance (2), plant (1), operations (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 that have been evaluated, around 70% have resulted in agreement being reached with the standard owner to modify the standard.

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-Dec-2017Modular Steel PlatformsBuildings & CivilsClarification concerning the current prescribed design life of platforms and minimum steel galvanising levels.
British Steel13-Nov-2017OLE Mast DesignElectrical PowerPotential for simplification of fabricated overhead line masts.
Network Rail10-Apr-2018Planning & Managing Construction WorkQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentPotential for contractor's Construction Phase Plans to be referenced to the Network Rail template sections.
SNC-Lavalin17-Apr-2018Track Design Handbook Module 07 GaugingTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin17-Apr-2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – Electrical ClearancesTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin12-Apr-2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – Conductor RailTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin12-Apr-2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – PlatformsTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
SNC-Lavalin12-Apr-2018Track Design Handbook System Interfaces – Level CrossingsTrackSeveral sections of the Track Design Handbook reference requirements for other disciplines. Potential for simplification.
Kwik-Step13-Apr-2018Lineside Access StepsBuildings & CivilsDesign requirements for lineside access steps.
Network Rail13-Apr-2018NR/L2/RSE/100/GuideNetwork Rail Assurance PanelRequest for document to be withdrawn as it is out of date.
Network Rail17-Apr-2018Requirements FrameworkProjectsClarification concerning who is accountable for the RRD.
Kwik-Step16-Apr-2018Electrical ClearancesElectrical PowerProviding improved clarity in relation to electrical clearance distances.
Kwik-Step13-Apr-2018Positions of SafetyQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentProviding improved clarity in relation to positions of safety.
Network Rail08-Jun-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-Jun-2018Wheel Impact Load DetectionTrackControls applied to trains following measurement of forces at Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) sites.
Amey22-Jun-2018DNO test pointsQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentProviding test points for DNO supply cubicles.
Amey26-Jun-2018Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerUsing lower power points heating strips nearer the switch toe.
J Murphy & Sons04-Jul-2018Line Speed following drainage worksTrackProposal for a more cost-effective regime for track stabilisation following installation of drainage.
Amey04-Jul-2018Track Affected ZoneTrackProposal to change the influence angle for the track affected zone.
Atkins05-Jul-2018Buffer LockingTrackUpdate to calculations to include vehicles without buffers, autocoupler limits and lateral movement of through-corridor trains.
Rail Asset Development06-Jul-2018Monitoring track during building worksBuildings & CivilsImproving clarity of requirements for monitoring of track in various situations.
Amey Sersa11-Jul-2018Stretcher Bar settingsTrackImproving clarity of installation and maintenance instructions for new stretcher bars at switches and crossings.
Amey13-Jul-2018Earth electrode/mat connectionsSignalling
Electrical Power
Clarification of requirements for connecting earth electrode/mats.
Network Rail26-Jul-2018Bridge StrengtheningBuildings & CivilsMinimum train live loading values applied to bridge strengthening schemes.
Siemens Rail07-Aug-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-Aug-2018Clarity around Authority to Work roles.ProjectsClarification concerning authority of certain roles.
Network Rail06-Sep-2018Engineering Assurance RequirementsElectrical PowerNR/L2/INI/CP0069 listed in the references but document has been withdrawn. Change PRS to RRD/DRRD.
Mott MacDonald09-Oct-2018Wind Loading on OLE structuresBuildings & CivilsAlignment of wind loading equations to BS EN 50119.
Amey09-Oct-2018Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerProposed changes to the arrangement drawings for electric points heating equipment.
Amey31-Oct-2018Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerTransformer terminal arrangements for supplying point strip heaters.
TSP Projects12-Nov-2018Platform CrossfallBuildings & CivilsAbility to construct platforms that achieve the specified crossfall gradient limits.
Amey21-Jan-2019Document Revision StrategyProjectsDifference between the revision strategy specified in the standard and the way ProjectWise is configured.
Power Supply Projects30-Jan-2019Cable Testing VoltagesElectrical PowerClarification regarding specified testing voltages for single core cable used on 25 kV a.c. systems.
VolkerRail15-Feb-2019Document FormatSignallingReadability of text in subject index.
J Murphy & Sons21-Feb-2019BoreholesBuildings & CivilsUse of a single borehole to confirm ground conditions for under-track crossing (UTX).
Hochtief29-Mar-2019Operational Property DrainageBuildings & CivilsStandard currently does not include operational property drainage systems.
Hochtief01-Apr-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-Apr-2019Monitoring track during building worksBuildings & CivilsDuration of monitoring baseline and adopting a risk-based approach.
Hochtief02-Apr-2019Platform CopingsBuildings & CivilsSafe manual handling / lifting of coping stones, and loading requirements.
VolkerRail16-Apr-2019Task Briefing SheetsQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentFormat of Task Briefing Sheet.
BAM Nuttall25-Apr-2019Handback linespeed following track replacementTrackHanding back the track at line speed following infrastructure works to replace the track.
25-Apr-2019Bridge Filler BeamsBuildings & CivilsAllowance for longitudinal shear resistance offered by metal components protruding into concrete.
J Murphy & Sons25-Apr-2019Battery Specification RequirementsElectrical PowerAlternative approach to performance calculation of battery life with photovoltaic system.
J Murphy & Sons25-Apr-2019Undertrack CrossingsBuildings & CivilsProposed performance specification instead of minimum depth of cover.
Osborne25-Apr-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-Apr-2019Functionality in DesignBuildings & CivilsIntegrated design approach using Functionality in Design.
Skanska UK25-Apr-2019Design Methodology of Geotechnical StructuresBuildings & CivilsAlternative design and calculation methods for geotechnical structures.
Arup10-Apr-2019Recess beneath Platform EdgeBuildings & CivilsStandard design dimensions do provide a TSI compliant recess.
Amey29-Apr-2019Working on or near Signalling Power Distribution equipmentSignalling
Electrical Power
Type of equipment covered by the ‘test before touch' procedure.
Amey29-Apr-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-Jun-2019Requirements for Clay BricksBuildings & CivilsBS 3921 has been withdrawn hence brick is no longer certified to this standard
Hochtief04-Jun-2019Water Supply (Water Fittings) RegulationsBuildings & CivilsDuties required by the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.
Hochtief04-Jun-2019Engineering Assurance RequirementsTrackEngineering Assurance Arrangements for Track Engineering Projects outputs
Balfour Beatty07-Jun-2019Warning sign dimensions for substationsElectrical PowerWarning sign dimensions for substations
AECOM11-Jun-2019DC 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 provision 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 platform piling.
Arcadis UK17-Jun-2019Use of centralisers when soil nailingBuildings & CivilsProposal to not use centralisers when using self-drilling soil nails.
WSP UK15-Jul-2019Track construction tolerancesElectrical PowerTrack construction tolerances to provide electrical clearances.
Scott Parnell05-Jul-2019Installation of cable routesElectrical PowerSpecification for installation of cable routes forming part of the traction distribution system
Story Contracting22-Aug-2019Minimum Rail Length (IBJ)TrackMinimum rail lengths for insulated block joints
VolkerRail22-Aug-2019Recording Spoken Safety Critical CommunicationOperationsRecording Spoken Safety Critical Communications between Possession Management and Engineering Trains/On-Track Plant Drivers when Working in Possessions and Worksites
Story Contracting27-Aug-2019Stress Free Temperature ValuesTrackStress Free Temperature Value Hierarchy following Project Works
Hochtief09-Sep-2019TEF3069 Pesticide Application RecordTrackChange to title TEF form to include the word herbicide instead of or alongside pesticide
Babcock12-Sep-2019Index of Track Engineering Forms (TEFs)TrackIndex needs to be updated to accurately reflect the current issues of TEFs
Story Contracting12-Sep-2019Stress Free Temperature ValuesTrackReview the current Stress Free Temperature values to manage risks associated with disturbance/works in adjacent to track and in the shoulder area only.
WSP UK26-Sep-2019Ballast RampsTrackAlternative arrangements to installing ballast ramps
Amey25-Sep-2019Approval in PrincipleBuildings & CivilsInclude requirement for designer to confirm design complies with the Approval In Principle document
Amey24-Sep-2019Wind Loading of OLE and StructuresBuildings & CivilsCorrection to cross-reference
Atkins07-Oct-2019Cable ProtectionElectrical PowerClarification on the level of mechanical protection required to be provided to Class II distribution cables.
WSP UK11-Oct-2019Minimum rail lengthTrackMinimum rail length required for permanent situation
Hochtief14-Oct-2019Drainage plansBuildings & CivilsRisk-based approach to runoff from common surfaces found within the Network Rail estate
A & I Coatings (UK)15-Oct-2019Use of fluoropolymer paint technologyBuildings & CivilsTo facilitate the use of fluoropolymer paint technology thereby enabling paint systems with design lives of up to sixty years
Hochtief23-Oct-2019Standard designs for DNO supply points and ballast boardsBuildings & CivilsProvision of standard designs for DNO supply points and ballast boards
J Murphy & Sons04-Nov-2019Gabion fill materialBuildings & CivilsAmend gabion fill material specification and gabion basket mesh size to allow track ballast to be used as gabion fill material
J Murphy & Sons04-Nov-2019Competence quads for key resourcesProjectsCreate a central database of approved CEM and CRE resources
J Murphy & Sons04-Nov-2019Design criteria for replacement of structural parts and elementsBuildings & CivilsAlternate design criteria to replacement of structural parts and elements
WSP UK08-Nov-2019Structural Expansion JointsTrackCorrection to figure showing which rails are free and fixed
Hochtief12-Nov-2019Bolt Protective CoatingBuildings & CivilsRequirement for protective coating required for cast in holding down bolts.
Costain20-Nov-2019Asset Management Plan optimisationMaintenanceOptimisation of the Asset Management Plan (AMP) enabling projects to be delivered more efficiently
Costain20-Nov-2019Form 2/3 CompletionBuildings & CivilsRequirement to complete Form 2/3 for certain category works
Costain11-Nov-2019Product Acceptance requirementsNetwork Rail Assurance PanelSuggested changes to Product Acceptance requirements
WSP27-Nov-2019Touch VoltagesElectrical PowerAlignment of permissible touch voltages with 2017 version of BS EN 50122-1
J Murphy & Sons02-Dec-2019Design of OLE structuresBuildings & CivilsLoading criteria for new OLE structures
J Murphy & Sons02-Dec-2019Life of coatingsBuildings & CivilsLife of coatings on surfaces prepared to St3 manually or by power tools
SPL19-Dec-2019Accuracy of track survey systemTrackAccuracy of RILA track survey measurement method
Arup17-Jan-2020Access Paths and Cess WalkwaysQuality, Safety, Health & EnvironmentConstruction requirements for walkways and also clarity around requirements for provision.
Arup17-Jan-2020Platform Coping Stone DimensionsBuildings & CivilsDimensions of coper stones for platforms.
WSP21-Jan-2020Cable SpecificationsElectrical PowerSome of the specified British Standards are no longer applicable or valid.
WSP05-Feb-2020d.c. earthing arrangementsElectrical PowerRequirements for earthing arrangements.
Costain10-Feb-2020Platform Gauge RecordingTrackMeasurement equipment and methods for platform gauge recording.
AECOM17-Feb-2020Conductor Rail DrawingsElectrical PowerFurther information needed for requirements relating to conductor rail provision.
AMCOGiffen19-Feb-2020Requirements for galvanisingBuildings & CivilsThickness of galvanising.
Hochtief21-Feb-2020Protective Coating RequirementsBuildings & CivilsRecommended review of documents to reduce complexity and cost for protective coating works.
AECOM25-Feb-2020OLE Stagger Reduction ValuesElectrical PowerClarification of requirements for MK1 OLE equipment stagger reduction.
Babcock Rail06-Mar-2020Rail Grinding for WeldingTrackRail grinding requirements for joining rails by aluminothermic welding
Hochtief14-Mar-2020Personal Voltage DetectorsPlantMandating the use of personnel voltage detectors when working in OLE areas in MEWPs to prevent inadvertent contact with live electrical conductors
Arup16-Mar-2020Footbridge RampsBuildings & CivilsInconsistency with requirements for gradients of footbridge ramps
Hochtief19-Mar-2020Building Information ModellingProjectsRequirements for colours used in Building Information Modelling
Hochtief25-Mar-2020Asphalt and Yellow Lines for PlatformsBuildings & CivilsDetailed requirements relating to materials used
Fenix Rail Systems27-Mar-2020Reed Track CircuitsSignallingRequirements relating to cable lengths and loop impedance
Arcadis Consulting15-Apr-2020Monitoring track during building worksBuildings & CivilsAction limits for measurement of twist
Amey Consulting05-May-2020Boundary Measures ManualBuildings & CivilsIncomplete standard issues and previous version withdrawn.
Baldwin and Francis13-May-2020Travel arrangements during COVID-19 pandemicMaintenanceRequirements for travelling in vans (COVID-19)
Amey01-Jun-2020Points Heating EquipmentElectrical PowerNew combination of Point Operating Equipment and rail type has been introduced
BAM Nuttall04-Jun-2020Use of furnace bottom ashBuildings & CivilsAmend the standard to reflect the guidelines in the Environment Agency Regulatory Position Statement 172 “The regulation of the use of unbound pulverised fuel ash and furnace bottom ash”
BAM Nuttall04-Jun-2020Number of footbridge risersBuildings & CivilsDiscrepancy between NR/L3/CIV/020 and BD29/04 (6.6) and the code of practice, regarding accessible train station design for disabled people for the number of risers and goings for a footbridge
BAM Nuttall04-Jun-2020Bridge collision loadingBuildings & CivilsUse and adapt/adopt UIC777-2R within Network Rail standards to provide a more cost efficient design for railway collision loading
Amey11-Jun-2020Along-track screening conductorsElectrical PowerThe statement “Along-track screening conductors are not required for signalling power cables” is misleading
Amey Consulting15-Jun-2020Short circuit rating of conductorsElectrical PowerDimensioning of conductors for short-circuit rating using the adiabatic method for different fault levels
Amey Consulting22-Jun-2020Current contact zone parameterElectrical PowerProposals for the current contact zone parameter in relation to the highest point of the overhead contact line
Amey Consulting23-Jun-2020Aerial earth wire termination bondsElectrical PowerClarify the number of aerial earth wire termination bonds
SPL Powerlines UK01-Jul-2020Overhead line foundation loadsBuildings & CivilsRemoval of the ‘minimum load’ table for the design and Installation of overhead line foundations
AECOM14-Jul-2020Symbol LibraryElectrical PowerThe symbol library is not up to date.
AECOM14-Jul-2020Record InformationElectrical PowerStandards need to be updated to reflect current working practices and procedures and/or standard working practices need to be made to comply with these procedures.
Alstom (SS&I)16-Jul-2020Tag Files for SSI recordsSignallingProvision of ‘Tag Files etc for SSI' was no longer required by NB26.

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

New products and innovations

In partnership with industry, we look at how research, development and technology can make train travel more comfortable, accessible, reliable and affordable. In certain cases, we’ve now improved new product acceptance on the railways to just 30 days. Innovators with new product ideas must complete a research and development challenge form (docx) and email it to R&D@networkrail.co.uk. Full details of the process can be found on research and development pages.”

Network Rail standards

Catalogue of Network Rail Standards
2 MB
Issue 119
Asset protection & optimisation of third party works on Network Rail infrastructure
712 KB
Issue 1
Asset protection & optimisation of outside party works on Network Rail infrastructure
934 KB
Guidance for completing the Standards Challenge Application
292 KB
Standards Challenge Form
48 KB
Standards challenged to date – March 2021
308 KB
Accessing Network Rail standards for contractors and suppliers
114 KB