Full steam ahead for Network Rail’s technology future

Network Rail has awarded its first IT contracts for the first phase of its new nationwide traffic management system

Network Rail has awarded its first IT contracts for the first phase of its new nationwide traffic management system.

As part of the operator’s plans to create a more affordable, higher performance railway, the traffic management technology will consolidate the control over the UK’s rail network. The plans are to reduce the 800 nationwide signal boxes controlling the network to 12 rail operating centres over the next 15-30 years.

The new automated system will allow large areas of the network to be controlled from fewer locations, and will reduce costs by £250m per year, while improving industry efficiency, and reducing delays.

“As the number of people and businesses relying on rail continues to grow, it is vital we have the technology to make the best use of Britain’s rail infrastructure,” said Robin Gisby, Network Rail’s managing director of network operations.

“The traffic management, which will be deployed on the network, uses tried and tested technology used on railways around the world to help deliver a leaner, more efficient and reliable network.”

The first two contracts worth a total of £28.8m have been awarded to Thales UK. The supplier will deploy technology in Network Rail’s Cardiff and Romford operating centres by December 2015.

Thales is one of three suppliers – with Signalling Solutions Ltd and Hitachi Rail Europe – which have been part of a supplier framework agreement since 2012 to supply traffic management equipment and software. Network Rail said future contracts will be awarded to one of these existing suppliers.

The award of contracts for the national roll-out of traffic management will be subject to future competitions and will involve all current traffic management framework holders.

Network Rail’s operating centres

Existing locations of Network Rail operating centres: Cardiff, Derby, Didcot, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gillingham

New operating centres to be completed in the next 15-30 years: Basingstoke, Manchester, Romford, Rugby, Three Bridges, York

The development and implementation of traffic management technology adds the systems to complement the physical construction and investment taking place at these locations.

Read more on IT outsourcing