To meet the challenges that the upcoming electrification programme presents, the industry will need a highly skilled and specialised workforce. The Rail Electrification Development Programme (REDP) is a collaborative initiative created and led by Network Rail and the Railway Industry Association (RIA) which is readying UK industry for the challenges of major new electrification projects.

Industry collaboration

Formed in November 2012, REDP (pronounced red-pee) brings together Network Rail as client with its supply chain equipment manufacturers, designers, contractors and others to identify and seek to address potential pinch points in the electrification programme, through a series of working groups, information streams and learning events.

Simon Kirby, Network Rail’s managing director for Infrastructure Projects, said: “REDP is an important step towards Infrastructure Projects’ vision of being recognised as the best rail infrastructure project delivery organisation in the UK.

“Collaboration with our supply chain is a key means of unlocking significant improvements in safety, reliability, value and sustainability. By working closer with our supply partners we will attract innovative solutions and longer term investment.”

In competition

One of REDP’s initiatives was the recent Best of the Best Linesman Event held at Network Rail’s training centre in Walsall. This event pitted Network Rail and contractor teams of OLE constructors in a series of technical and theory challenges, sharing best practice and providing valuable input to new training materials. Alan Stark and Thomas Forgie of Laing O’Rourke, who had travelled from Australia to compete, were declared the winners against stiff competition from teams representing, Carillion Rail, Colas, Keltbray Aspire, Network Rail and VolkerRail.

Richard Wales, Infrastructure Projects discipline lead for E&P, said: “Since the electrification of ECML, over the last 20 years there has been very little electrification work undertaken in the UK which means that we now have limited capability to deliver the upcoming programme of works. With the growth of high speed railway throughout the world, technology has greatly improved so that the highest quality linesmen are using machines and tools that did not exist when the first mainline electrification was carried out more than 50 years ago.

“This event was set up to help improve the understanding of best practice, share innovation and understand what skills, behaviours and characteristics the best overhead linemen possess and is an integral part of professionalising the workforce.”

As CP5 approaches, REDP will be organising further learning events and encouraging the sharing of electrification experience across the supply chain. Any suggestions for opportunities in that field are welcome via redp@networkrail.