The National Railway Museum in York was the venue for the second annual railway conference organised by Westermo Data Communications. This year’s theme was very topical – “Delivering Projects Through Partnerships”.

Opening the day, Westermo’s Phil Mounter outlined how both the McNulty report on Delivering a Better Value Railway, and the creation of a British Standard strategic framework for collaborative working, enabling organisations to partner more effectively, had led Westermo to look at its own collaboration and partnerships.

However, Phil emphasised that BS11000 is not a “one size fits all” badge of accreditation and there are many things a company needs to consider beforehand. For example, who is there in the marketplace or supply chain to collaborate with? Every company needs to fully understand its own area of expertise and what it can bring to a collaboration before proceeding.

Westermo managing director Alan Bollard introduced the audience to his company, and the range of robust data communication devices that it manufactures. Founded in Sweden in 1975, in 2011 it had a worldwide turnover of €36 million and invested €5 million in research and development, an increase of 20% over three years.


Andy Harrison, managing director of consultants DB&CS, addressed delegates on BS11000 – An Introduction To Suppliers. He outlined the history of BS11000 and how it had initially been developed by Partnership Sourcing Ltd, a joint initiative of the department of Trade and Industry and the CBI. Now renamed the Institute for Collaborative Working, its role is to help organisations, large and small, in both the public and private sectors, to build and develop effective competitive business relationships based upon a collaborative approach.

The next speaker gave some practical examples of collaborative working in action. Richard Graham is head of strategic development at Balfour Beatty Rail. His presentation, entitled Supplier Integration with Collaborative Frameworks, covered four subjects – a look at collaborative engagement and its importance, a review of Balfour Beatty’s progress, and his thoughts on issues that the supply chain will face.

As a case study, Richard looked at the Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace capacity improvement works being carried out for Network Rail, along with the Crossrail south east section from Plumstead to Abbey Wood.

The project includes a new Crossrail terminus station, two new platforms and a two mile stretch of track with improvements to five bridges and two new overhead electrified lines. Balfour Beatty was asked to apply a collaborative approach from the start.

This resulted in developing a GRIP 4 preliminary design within 8 months, leading to a joint construction methodology and a validated fixed price contract of around £35 million.

Network Rail’s experience

That work was conducted for Network Rail. So it next fell to Neill Carruthers, head of contracting strategy for Network Rail, to explain what collaborative working means to him. His opening statement, “The whole industry’s costs are too high and the whole industry needs to change”, set the tone for his presentation.

Network Rail is working on a partnering strategy which drives down unit costs. This will be achieved by improving safe construction methods through aligning risk management and integration and by introducing innovative solutions at an earlier stage. Scope variations will be reduced by aligning the client, constructor and designer at an earlier stage and by reducing duplication in resources.

The first five projects for which Network Rail will be using BS11000 as a strategic framework have a combined value of approximately £1 billion. They are:

  • Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace capacity project
  • Hitchin grade separation
  • Reading Station (IMP 1 & 2 Packages)
  • Crossrail South East section project
  • Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement programme.

Further projects are now being identified for potential expansion into the BS11000 portfolio. These include the London Bridge area partnering programme, Crossrail/Reading project, the Stafford area improvement project and other ECML and signalling schemes which would take the total of BS11000 projects to nearer £3 billion.

Co-operation or collaboration?

Westermo’s Phil Mounter returned to the podium after lunch. He compared the normal working practice of co-operating with suppliers to the new concept of collaborating with them, which requires a cultural change throughout the company. As an example, he mentioned a trial project with Network Rail to replace old analogue voice recorders with digital ones. This project is at a very early stage but, by early engagement, companies are able to bring ideas to the table that previously wouldn’t have been considered.

Another example of collaborative working came from Kevin Stringer of FirstCo. The longstanding project to cool London Underground’s tube network is now also being undertaken collaboratively. Three different strategies are being adopted: introducing airflow through shafts into tunnels using fans, new air cooling in stations using platform air handling units (PAHUs), and small fan systems in various stations.

Mid Tunnel Ventilation Shafts (MTVs) operate by drawing air through the stations to maintain tunnel airflow and by pushing air into the tunnel. Because some of these shafts are in residential areas, various dampers have to be fitted to make sure the noise extraction isn’t a nuisance to local residents.

FirstCo are also installing platform air handling units (PAHUs) at Oxford Circus and Green Park which work off chilled water. That water is supplied to the units by a chilled water loop, using borehole water and chiller packs. Collaborative working between all concerned is achieving the desired results.

Platform announcements

Paul Dobbins, chief technical officer with telent, stayed on the London Underground theme. The company’s relationship with London Underground goes back to the Docklands Light Railway in 1980. In 2005, telent won the Tube Lines station upgrade contact which involved 100 Jubilee, Northern & Piccadilly Line stations. The 13 year contract encouraged innovation and this continued into the most recent contract with LU to maintain communications at the remaining stations, including voice announcement systems.

All stations have a Station Management System that allows selection of pre-recorded announcements and has the ability to make live recordings from the platform. In 2010, London Underground started a series of efficiency work streams to improve station operations which specifically includes giving the correct information to passengers. Working closely with London Underground, telent has developed a system that automatically makes service announcements based on information entered at the National Operations Centre (NOC).

As part of the collaboration, London Underground invited telent to participate in team meetings, while LU staff have visited telent’s creative studios. Both parties are enthusiastic that this is having beneficial results. Millions of London Underground commuters will soon hear co-ordinated announcements on a daily basis and much of the credit for this goes to Paul Crook, senior client engineer for London Underground Strategy and Service and Chris Hooper the lead system engineer for telent rail, who between them have made this programme work.

The technical director of Westermo, Ray Lock, rounded off the day by looking at how strategic framework partnerships work for third and fourth tier suppliers. Westermo has built up both their onboard and trackside product portfolios by working with suppliers, while collaboration with customers such as Bombardier has resulted in the Westermo IP train concept. This is a complete ethernet switch and routing solution that provides a robust network infrastructure for creating intelligent trains.
Delegates found the day useful as an introduction to collaborative working.

A survey after the event identified that 38% of all attendees had not heard of BS11000 beforehand, but 86% said they would be looking seriously at it following this event. Westermo’s conference seems to have had the desired result.