Network Rail is ultimately accountable to the public for the safety and operation of the vast majority of the rail network in Britain. But that should not mean that Network Rail is the only body that can build or renew infrastructure on or around the railway. I believe in the power of competition to drive efficiency, creativity and innovation. These are not always words associated with the rail industry. But I want them to be.
That is why, in December 2016, I commissioned Professor Peter Hansford, former Chief Construction Advisor to the UK Government, to carry out a review into the barriers that prevent third parties building on, and potentially investing in, our railways. Professor Hansford and his review team consulted with over 150 individuals and organisations. He presented his findings to Network Rail’s Board in June 2017, and today we are publishing his report in full. I would like to thank him and his team for all their hard work, as well as everyone who took the time to contribute to the review.
The review makes a number of recommendations for Network Rail, which we accept wholeheartedly. We are now committing to changing our behaviours and approaches so that a range of organisations can come forward with alternative solutions and new ways of working.
My message to the industry is that Network Rail is open for business.
We have set out below some of the areas where we will be introducing contestability in the delivery of projects and renewals activity. We explain how we will change our processes and behaviours to enable third parties to directly carry out projects and renewals on and around the railway. We know that this will make third party funding easier to achieve, which will directly benefit passengers and taxpayers. And we are committing to work with the industry to find the right mechanisms to attract and reward third party finance and delivery.
These actions will support our ambition to transform into a more customer-focussed organisation and, most importantly, change the way the rail industry operates to deliver the high performing, cost efficient railway that Britain’s future depends on.
2. Network Rail is open for business
Third party involvement in rail schemes can take many different forms. We believe, however, that there are a number of clear areas of opportunity.