Reviewing our standards

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
The wider industry is being encouraged to send challenges via the new process

Industry response