08 May 2008 | Paul Snell
Network Rail has promised to better its supplier management and relationships following heavy criticism earlier this year.
The organisation was censured by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in February for failing to find the appropriate balance of risk and reward with its suppliers. The ORR fined it £14 million and told it to improve supplier partnerships (News, 13 March).
The infrastructure provider has agreed to make changes and in an interview with SM, Ian Ballentine, head of contracts and procurement, said he wanted the group to improve the company's approach towards suppliers.
"There are elements of adversarial behaviour," he said. "You do see aggressive behaviour arise when things are not going well.
"Where we see it we will use training to get people to understand there are other ways of delivering a project rather than banging on the table and saying, 'I need my project today'."
Ballentine added suppliers have been positive about the changes, and he is keen to expand the group's supply base beyond the UK and into Europe to increase the range of best practice.
Graham Coombs, communications director at supplier membership organisation the Railway Industry Association, said it was a positive step for the sector. "There is no doubt in the days of Railtrack [Network Rail's predecessor] that it was highly adversarial. It has been changing ever since. We are not quite in a fully co-operative environment, but we are moving in the right direction," he said.