UK rail operator launches online suggestion box for vendors

16 February 2011
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16 February 2011 | Angeline Albert

Network Rail is asking its suppliers to suggest ways it can cut costs and operate more efficiently.

This week it launched the ‘bright ideas' website on which it will post details of problems it wants to overcome in the hope that suppliers will recommend solutions.

For example, Network Rail wants low cost technical solutions that will enable up-to-date reporting on the condition of its railway assets. Currently, a lot of manual fault reporting takes place during routine maintenance work but the company is keen to hear suggestions for real-time remote fault reporting. It hopes that publishing its challenges will bring it closer to existing providers as well helping it to forge new supplier relationships.

Ian Sexton, Network Rail’s director of contracts and procurement, said: “Innovations such as high-output machinery and our modular switches and crossings programme have shown that we can make significant improvements to the way we manage our infrastructure, speeding up processes and reducing costs. Our new website provides the industry with more clarity of our innovation priorities, helping suppliers to focus their efforts on developing solutions and more efficient ways of working that meet the demands of a modern, better value railway.”

The website aims to make it easier for proposals to be assessed and developed, while reducing the costs and risks linked to supplier-led research and development. Proposals, which will be assessed by a supply chain manager, must be new and different, solve a particular problem and have a strong business case. The company wants to hear from those working in all industries including small businesses, universities and research institutes.

Last December, UK transport secretary Philip Hammond said an overhaul of the rail industry could reduce running costs by up to £1 billion a year. It followed the publication of the Rail Value for Money studywhich said Network Rail was inefficient compared with its European counterparts.

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