News broke last week that the UK Rail Regulator is ordering Network Rail to ramp up spending on upgrades across the entire network to improve the reliability and boost safety – these plans encompass track upgrading, earth works, drainage and Structures (stations, bridges etc)
The expected spend will be £1bn – that may seem a lot but diluted over huge operational areas this there is figure will quickly dissipate as the applications may be more wide spread across the network.
The ORR (Office of Rail & Road) will publish their determination in October this year but the order is designed to smooth out Network Rails spending profile.
We all have experience with the rail network and the rail companies contracted to deliver services between the hubs of your journey and it would be easy to hold the feeling “good” or “about time” – these may valid to some extent but like everything its not as cut and dried as that.
The £1bn spending figure may rise as Network Rail attempts to smooth out the spending profileto minimise disruption and improve reliability and safety across the rail landscape as part of the ongoing £18bn control period 6 works.
Upgrading the entire rail network and the associated projects will have unforeseen circumstances (there will be a great deal of these) which will need controlling and mitigating.
It is no easy feat which is why the upgrades will take so long to complete.
Imagine the scope of the entire project – imagine the workforce planning, the staff turnover, the expertise structuring – placing the right people in the right places at the right time.
The travel, the essential prescribed PPE, safety equipment and workwear – the requirement for continuity of supply when it is needed.
The requirements of the supply chain to operate round the clock up and down the country to ensure that when certain workers move to different sites their replacement garments & tools and accessories will be there.
The project management on this upgrade will be akin to herding cats into a giant hall, making them to sit down on request and all purr in unison.
From the view point of a PPE provider we would see this project as both a great opportunity and a monumental challenge.
Yet challenges are there to be overcome – the almost prohibitive planning for a degree of uncertainty relating to safety equipment, PPE and GO/RT requirements would be countered with meticulous attention to what is needed, what is proposed, where it expected and the hedging to cover the overspill.
The subsequent plan would mirror the planned works and operate slightly ahead.
There would be time pockets for despatch to “top up” products if required to be delivered to site by specific times.
The ordering process could be as centralised or decentralised as required – permissions could be handled with ease and oversight by the accounts team should they need live up-to-date data on usage or orders. – helps with forecasting spend before final reports are produced.
We would draft the necessary steps and make it easier for orders to be delivered to multiple sites, hotels, even homes as well as main depots making it easier for the required products to be ready when they are needed – alleviating expensive downtime and additional costs of sourcing product from local vendors.
The main aim would be to mitigate the down time of work on site as these are to be monitored by ORR with penalties attached.
The last thing any company would want is to be hit with penalties due to something like insufficient or non-compliant PPE by the HSE or the rail governing body.
There would be no misuse or abuses as all transactions will be monitored and restricted as directed by the main cost centres, these will be backed up with full reporting.
The “Man-Pack” feature would negate the “free for all” issues if orders were sent to depots for distribution to the staff.
Whoever had the task of handing out the man-packs would find it easier with durable sealed bags complete with itemised list of the contents and the workers name and ID clearly displayed – this would dramatically reduce time and losses plus it removes the problem of odd items as left overs.
What would be most advantageous for a company like Network Rail would be the usage data for cost centre evaluation – the ability to analyse usage for each worker and indeed the products in the field.
It would allow for better planning based upon real data used in conjunction with alternative products exposed to the same conditions.
This would allow greater in-depth precision as to what products really work best both in terms of the performance and the company’s bottom line.
I would assume a company the size of Network Rail already has these assets and more in place to mitigate the delays and inability for the teams to operate trackside especially with closer scrutiny.
But if they don’t….well it may be a worth a quick call in to BHI.