Established to modernise and improve signalling infrastructure across the UK network, the National Signalling Framework is now in full swing.

Announced in January 2012 (issue 89, March 2012), three framework agreements were awarded to Invensys (now Siemens Rail Automation), Signalling Solutions and Atkins. Primary and secondary contractors were appointed, covering eight geographical areas. These agreements formed the backbone of Network Rail’s programme to modernise and maintain safety-critical railway signalling systems and were designed to deliver the efficiency savings required across the company’s signalling work bank over the next seven years through further reductions in unit costs.

At least one of the contractors, Atkins, has found that delivering this major programme of work, while achieving challenging industry efficiency targets, has required a different approach. The solution has been to work collaboratively with Network Rail.

The framework was set up to deliver design and build contracts (GRIP 5-8). However, at the time that Atkins was appointed primary contractor for the Area 4A (Anglia and Kent) and Area 4B (Sussex and Wessex) frameworks, the initial development stages – GRIP 1 to GRIP 4 – also needed to be completed. The company was therefore awarded an additional commission by Network Rail to progress seven key projects to the design and build phase so that they could then be delivered under the framework. For the past two years Atkins has significantly advanced these schemes, with the first project, East Kent Phase 2, recently moving into design and build.

Progressing the schemes

Speaking to Steve Hall, frameworks programme manager for Atkins, it is clear that working in collaboration with Network Rail has streamlined the GRIP 1-4 process. “When we were named primary contractor in January 2012, we decided from the beginning that working in partnership would be the best way to get all seven projects ready for design and build. As we were putting the project team together for East Kent Phase 2, we established principles to help us save time and money.

For example, rather than having a number of project managers, we only have one, by implementing the policy of best person for the job where appropriate.

Atkins, signalling engineer“Balfour Beatty Rail and Spencer Rail are also working with Atkins and Network Rail to deliver East Kent. While this is not a formal alliance, all companies put into practice the main values of working in partnership. Our trial of the shared project controls office in East Kent is a good example of collaboration at its best. By working as one team, co-located in one office, we are driving efficiency and delivering shared project performance data for all four businesses via cloud based systems which are accessible to all.”

As the first project to reach the design and build phase, East Kent Phase 2 is the example which the other schemes (Victoria 2, Norwich- Yarmouth-Lowestoft, Feltham, Cambridge, Colchester and West of England) are following.

Moving in together…

In April 2013, the joint East Kent Phase 2 team initially moved into an office in Croydon and is now permanently based in the project site office at Rochester. This has made communication and problem solving much easier as the engineers from Atkins, Network Rail, Balfour Beatty and C Spencer sit with each other and can deal with issues as they arise.

The project is also one of the first framework schemes making full use of the standard for collaborative business relationships, BS 11000. East Kent Phase 2 achieved certification to that standard last year, which Steve Hall notes as an important milestone. “By following the guidelines set out in BS 11000, roles and responsibilities are clearly defined to avoid duplication of effort, which is also helping us keep the projects ahead of schedule,” he said.

Three further projects will be moved into the Network Rail offices at East Anglia House later this year. The projects, Norwich-Yarmouth-Lowestoft, Cambridge and Colchester, are all at various stages within the GRIP 1-4 process and it is expected that the benefits of co-location seen on East Kent Phase 2 will be experienced on these schemes as well.

Meanwhile, the Feltham project team will also move into a joint office at Waterloo. This major resignalling scheme has now moved into the GRIP 3 (option selection) stage. With Atkins, Network Rail and the South West Trains Alliance working at Waterloo, it is anticipated that integration requirements with other major infrastructure projects working in the same area will be easier to co-ordinate.

Another testament to the success of co-location is Victoria 2, which is based in Croydon. Covering the Streatham, Wimbledon and Sutton areas, the GRIP 1-4 stage has taken less than two years to complete – an impressive timescale by industry standards.

Steve Reynolds, signalling project director for Network Rail, said: “I’m really passionate about collaboration, and I feel it’s the only way forward in the frameworks. The results that our joint team has achieved on the development stage of these framework projects are fantastic, and testament to their hard work and dedication. While we’ve achieved a lot over the past two years, we’ve still got a busy time ahead of us. Feltham is one of the biggest signalling projects in the UK, so working efficiently together is extremely important.”

Summing up the National Signalling Framework so far, Steve Hall commented: “It has been a very eventful time and we look forward to delivering more projects under these frameworks. Collaboration has already played an important role in reducing delivery times which will mean that the travelling public can enjoy more reliable journeys on the network sooner. With more work on the horizon we are always looking for talented engineers to join our team and help us resignal the South of England.”