We are reviewing and amending our standards, practices and approach to risk management.

By reassessing the way we govern our work with other organisations wishing to build on or near the railway, we will streamline processes and make it easier to work with us.

Asset protection and optimisation (ASPRO)

When working with us, third parties can expect to see better working practices, streamlined and consistent processes, and a slicker, less bureaucratic structure under a more consistent framework.

Officially Europe’s safest railway, it falls to our asset protection and optimisation (ASPRO) teams to make sure any work on or near the railway is done safely and to the right standards. Yet these standards and practices can sometimes mean it is difficult for third parties to deliver railway projects. Recognising this, we are implementing a number of reforms to the way our ASPRO organisation works, which will break down barriers and make it easier for other organisations to invest in and build on the railway.

New roles

To raise the professional competency, assurance and drive consistency within our ASPRO teams, a new national professional head of ASPRO role has been created. Mona Sihota has been appointed to the role, bringing nearly 30 years of railway experience spanning design, construction and asset management.

This newly created position capitalises on Mona’s previous experience as professional head of drainage to now include off-track (lineside, vegetation and boundaries) and ASPRO, as there are significant synergies between the areas of responsibility.

Additionally, Network Rail has created roles for a head of ASPRO in each of their eight geographic routes, who will work with project sponsors on third party requirements. They will be directly accountable to the industry for ensuring service levels are delivered. The positions are in the process of being recruited.

National framework

A national ASPRO framework has been produced and is in the process of being rolled out across the business. This will support in driving a consistent and transparent approach for third parties working with us, meaning there will be clearly defined processes, working practices, responsibilities and contacts right across the business. Third party promoters of projects on the railway will note they receive a quicker, more reliable service when dealing with Network Rail.

Service level obligations

Network Rail has committed to a range of Service level obligations which will make it easier for third parties to deliver work on or near the railway. We've worked with a number of internal teams and industry colleagues, and participated in an industry consultation, led by Amey Plc in a special advisory capacity, and formulated ASPRO service levels against which our customers and others can hold us to account. This has resulted in a series of Service level obligations which go further than the recommendations of the Hansford Review. By having service level obligations in place, third party promoters of projects on the railway can know what to expect from Network Rail’s service and when to expect it by.

These service level obligations have been agreed with the ORR and are set out in the revised asset protection agreement (APA) and basic asset protection agreement (BAPA), the documents that guide how we work with third parties to enable them to deliver enhancements to the railway. These documents can be found on the downloads for third parties page

Service levelMeasure of successOur commitment
Response to initial contactWithin five working days of initial contactRespond to initial contact in writing within five working days with a relevant contact to support the work
Secondary contact dateWithin 15 working days of initial contactSecondary contact within 15 working days of initial contact. Network Rail to engage with external party to commence exploration of their requirements at an appropriate level of expertise
Design submission date ASPRO responseWithin 25 working days of receiptReturn any design data identified as being on the critical path within 25 working days of receipt
ASPRO final response to programme receivedWithin 10 working days of receipt of implementation programme or informationReview implementation programme and provide comments to the customer
Date ASPRO informed customer of possession(s)Within 20 working days of completion of consultation on proposed possession planConfirm in writing that the relevant possessions have been obtained or not, together with details within 20 working days of completion of consultation on proposed possession plan

Customer satisfaction surveys

As Network Rail owns and operates Britain's railway, our responsibility to run and maintain it safely can mean other organisations feel we are difficult to work with when delivering railway projects. Recognising this, we are implementing a number of reforms to break down barriers and make it easier to work with us.

To ensure we're making the right changes, we've started conducting customer satisfaction surveys with third parties we work with and have committed to regularly reporting on the results. The results from our latest customer satisfaction survey can be found on our downloads for third parties page

Clarifying risk

It’s important an investor or developer know the risks they’re responsible for when building on or by the railway, as they differ greatly than when building on the high street, highway or any other environment.

We’ve looked at 41 separate categories of risk that could cause problems, delays or extra cost to a project on the railway and analysed where Network Rail can take ownership of that risk, or made it clear who will cover it. An ‘industry risk fund’ has been established to enable Network Rail to take the risk and fund liabilities when projects encounter certain unforeseen industry related problems. The default risk allocation table is available from our downloads for third parties page and details each potential risk and who is responsible for it – Network Rail, the industry risk fund, the sponsoring customer or the enhancement contractor.

Consulting with the rail industry – revised asset protection agreements

In order to deliver the recommendations of the Hansford Review, we worked with the wider railway industry to reassess the way we govern our work with other organisations wishing to build on or near the railway, and have streamlined the processes to make it easier to work with us. We therefore needed to revise the third party asset protection agreements (APAs) and basic asset protection agreements (BAPAs) in order to reflect Hansford’s recommendations. We produced draft agreements which we then consulted with the railway industry in order for users of the agreements to challenge whether the changes adequately addressed the recommendations. The consultation process closed on 6th May 2019. We then thoroughly reviewed all the comments received and undertook a further revision of the agreements to reflect all valid suggestions.

These revised agreements were approved by the ORR on 12th August 2019 and can be found here, together with tables setting out the material changes to the agreements, based on those previously approved by the ORR in 2010.