Repairs spark rethink for Railtrack

4 January 2001
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04 January 2001 | David Arminas

Railtrack may reshape some areas of its purchasing operation as part of its massive rail replacement programme.

The railway infrastructure company is considering taking over the purchasing for some of the equipment and supplies that is currently bought by maintenance contractors.

"Previously, much of the equipment was bought and managed by individual contractors," Les Mosco, Railtrack's director of supply chain, told SM.

He said that buying these goods on their behalf could focus the contractors on Railtrack's priorities and improve co-ordination. "We already purchase rail, sleepers and ballast centrally. These are the high-cost items [and] also those where physical delivery to remote work sites is a skilled logistics job."

Much of the other equipment purchased by contractors comes from a limited number of specialist suppliers and includes rail fittings and fastenings, signaling and cabling. "The key issue is accurate just-in-time delivery, so on-site work, which must take place within narrow time-windows, is not delayed. Better co-ordination of purchasing, with better use of e-procurement, could help with this," said Mosco, who was appointed to the new position at Railtrack last July.

It uses seven maintenance contractors, and Railtrack's relationship with them has come under fire since the fatal Hatfield train crash in October. A cracked rail caused the accident that prompted a massive hunt for defective track.

There have been calls to reduce the number of maintenance contractors, but this was "a bit of an aside", said Mosco. He acknowledged Railtrack had had "patchy [and] varied" contractor relationships in the past, but said this has been improving over the past 18 months, as Railtrack brought in IMC2000 (infrastructure maintenance contracts) contracts to replace older RT1A contract.

In use since the privatisation of British Rail in the early 1990s, RT1A is essentially an outsourced track maintenance contract that provides lump-sum payments. IMC2000 uses risk management and rewards systems, where more decisions are shared and payment is measured on performance, explained Mosco, who is a former CIPS president.

Railtrack is following the lead set by water companies, which are undertaking massive infrastructure programmes, said Geoff Warren, chairman of the CIPS contracts management committee.

"They have set up framework agreements under which they buy in most of the plant and equipment for contractors, which then call upon the agreement for supplies," he explained.


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