Network Rail seeks digital partner in potential £180m eight-year deal

Delivering the first digital railway.

Network Rail has launched the third procurement in its major digital railway transformation programme on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) – a potential eight-year deal worth £180m.

The company is seeking a traffic management partner to work within its London North Eastern and East Midlands (LNE & EM) route on the first inter-city development and deployment of modern in-cab signalling. The traffic management system will be the first tailored system on the network designed and developed in conjunction with industry partners, reflecting a new way of working for Network Rail.

The procurement will complement the two previous ECML tenders launched last year, which will result in three external partners being appointed to assist the transformation programme. Last summer a process was launched to find a technology provider, known as the train control partner, to work on developing joint solutions and in November the search began for a railway systems integration partner to help coordinate the industry change in delivering the programme. 

The new way of working involves Network Rail teaming up with providers early to combine operating and infrastructure knowledge with suppliers’ technology expertise, to design solutions based on collaboration from the start of the process. Network Rail say the southern section of the ECML has a “once-in-a-generation alignment of opportunities to deliver a cost-effective digital railway transformation.”

They say the train control system was last substantially upgraded in the 1970s so will need to be renewed, and at the same time many of the trains operating on the route have already been fitted with digital in-cab signalling technology or are soon to come into service.

The procurement process contains provision for two lots to provide one or two partners between York and Manchester rail operating centres, developing traffic management for the TransPennine route upgrade programme as well as ECML.

Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail route programme director, said: “We are seeking a private sector technology partner to help us introduce traffic management on both the East Coast Main Line and the TransPennine route, including parts of Greater Manchester. We took the careful and conscious decision to align the technology partner with the railway operating centre, providing a longer-term focus for operational performance, realising efficiencies and ensuring technology compatibility and evolution over time.”

Stuart Calvert, interim managing director of group digital railway for Network Rail, said: “We are pleased to support our route colleagues to transform this vital part of the network by managing this important procurement process. Appointing the right external partner at an early stage will ensure that the industry change required is managed effectively.”

Procurement for the train control partner (TCP) and RSIP were launched last year, with the TCP likely to be appointed in the summer, and the RSIP following in the autumn.The traffic management partner (TMP) will be appointed via a framework contract over an initial four-year term that may be extended up to eight years and worth up to £180m in whole life values. 

More information can be found in the OJEU notice here.

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