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

ApplicantSubjectAreaSummary of challengeDate challenge received
TSP ProjectsModular steel platformsBuildings & civilsClarification of the current prescribed design life of platforms and minimum steel galvanising levels07/12/2017
British SteelOverhead Line Equipment (OLE) mast designElectrical powerPotential simplification of fabricated overhead line masts13/11/2017
Network RailPlanning & managing construction workQuality, safety, health & environmentPotential for contractor's construction phase plans to be referenced to the Network Rail template sections10/04/2018
SNC-LavalinTrack design handbook module 07 gaugingTrackPotential simplification as several sections reference requirements for other disciplines17/04/2018
SNC-LavalinTrack design handbook system interfaces – Electrical clearancesTrackPotential simplification as several sections reference requirements for other disciplines17/04/2018
SNC-LavalinTrack design handbook system interfaces – conductor railTrackPotential simplification as several sections reference requirements for other disciplines12/04/2018
SNC-LavalinTrack design handbook system interfaces – platformsTrackPotential simplification as several sections reference requirements for other disciplines12/04/2018
SNC-LavalinTrack design handbook system interfaces – level crossingsTrackPotential simplification as several sections reference requirements for other disciplines12/04/2018
Kwik-Step LtdLineside access stepsBuildings & civilsDesign requirements for lineside access steps13/04/2018
Network RailSpecific document NR/L2/RSE/100/GuideNetwork Rail Assurance PanelRequest for document to be withdrawn as it is out of date13/04/2018
Network RailRequirements frameworkProjectsClarification on accountability17/04/2018
Kwik-Step LtdElectrical clearancesElectrical powerProviding improved clarity16/04/2018
Kwik-Step LtdPositions of safetyQuality, safety, health & environmentProviding improved clarity13/04/2018
Network RailTrain borne monitoring of traction power contact systemsElectrical powerClarification in relation to a number of requirements08/06/2018
Grand CentralWheel impact load detectionTrackControls applied to trains following measurement of forces at Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) sites19/06/2018
AmeyDNO test pointsQuality, safety, health & environmentProviding test points for DNO supply cubicles22/06/2018
AmeyPoints heating equipmentElectrical powerUsing lower power points heating strips nearer the switch toe26/06/2018
J Murphy & SonsLine speed following drainage worksTrackProposal for more cost-effective regime of track stabilisation following installation of drainage04/07/2018
AmeyTrack affected zoneTrackProposal to change the influence angle for the track affected zone04/07/2018
AtkinsBuffer lockingTrackUpdate to calculations to include vehicles without buffers, autocoupler limits and lateral movement of through-corridor trains05/07/2018
Rail Asset Development LtdMonitoring track during building worksBuildings & CivilsImproving clarity of requirements for monitoring of track in various situations06/07/2018
Amey SersaStretcher bar settingsTrackImproving clarity of installation and maintenance instructions for new stretcher bars at switches and crossings11/07/2018
AmeyEarth electrode/mat connectionsSignalling electrical powerClarification of requirements13/07/2018
Network RailBridge strengtheningBuildings & CivilsMinimum train live loading values applied to bridge strengthening schemes26/07/2018
Siemens RailNon-application of design for reliability standard to signalling fibre interfaceNetwork Rail Assurance PanelPotential for non-application of requirements for certain commercial off-the-shelf components07/08/2018
Network RailClarity around authority to work rolesProjectsClarification concerning authority of certain roles09/08/2018
Network RailEngineering assurance requirementsElectrical powerDocument listed in references has been withdrawn06/09/2018
Mott MacDonaldWind loading on Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) structuresBuildings & CivilsAlignment of wind loading equations09/10/2018
AmeyPoints heating equipmentElectrical powerProposed changes to the arrangement drawings for electric points heating equipment09/10/2018
AmeyPoints heating equipmentElectrical powerTransformer terminal arrangements for supplying point strip heaters31/10/2018
TSP ProjectsPlatform crossfallBuildings & civilsAbility to construct platforms that achieve the specified crossfall gradient limits12/11/2018
AmeyDocument revision strategyProjectsDifference between the revision strategy specifiied in the standard and the way ProjectWise is configured21/01/2019
Power Supply ProjectsCable testing voltagesElectrical powerClarification of testing voltages for single core cable used on 25 kV a.c. systems30/01/2019
VolkerRailDocument formatSignallingReadability of text in subject index.15/02/2019
J Murphy & SonsBoreholesBuildings & civilsUse of a single borehole to confirm ground conditions for under track crossing21/02/2019

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
4 MB
Issue 111
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