Avid readers of Rail Engineer may recall an article I wrote some time ago about a new type of framework contract which demanded a new way of working together, not only for Network Rail and its chosen principal contractors, but also for the entire supply chain involved.

To recap, the process started in December 2013, when Network Rail selected four contractors for construction framework agreements worth a total of £1.2 billion along its Anglia, Kent, Sussex and Wessex routes over the next five years. The contracts were with Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects (IP) Southern region and they started on 1 April 2014, covering much of the region’s £2.5 billion workload in control period five (CP5) which is due to end in 2019. The four frameworks, which will soon be entering into their third year, are with VolkerFitzpatrick (Anglia), BAM Nuttall (Sussex), Geoffrey Osborne (Wessex) and Costain (Kent).

The form of agreement in place is known as the New Engineering Contract 3 (NEC3) and, when it was introduced, it was new to Network Rail IP. The aims of the frameworks are to encourage and facilitate suppliers to work closely with Network Rail, undertaking projects of all sizes spanning from initial development through to final delivery, incorporating jointly agreed objectives that are aligned with Network Rail’s outputs for CP5.

To ensure that Network Rail would be able to fulfil its commitment to work more closely and transparently with its supply chain, collaboration formed 25 per cent of the tender evaluation criteria. Also, for the first time, Network Rail decided that safety issues would make up 15 per cent. As a consequence, 85 per cent of the total score is quality related, leaving just 15 per cent associated with cost. At the time, this represented a significant and exciting shift in Network Rail’s approach to procurement and value.

Diverse range of engineering challenges

Each contractor has had to develop the capability to respond to a diverse set of multidisciplinary projects covering civil engineering, track construction, and mechanical and electrical works. The projects involve underbridge repair and replacement, footbridge construction, major earthworks, and works to tunnels, station platforms and buildings.

To find out how things were progressing, I met again with Andy Clarke, project director for Costain, to find out how their £60 million over the five-year term framework is progressing in Kent since we last met. Andy reminded me that, for everyone involved, this contract is quite different from anything that they have worked on before. The customer for their contract is clearly defined as Network Rail’s South East route director of asset management (DRAM) and route enhancement manager (REM). Andy reports to a framework board of directors that includes representatives from Network Rail IP, Costain and the DRAM. Andy has a fully integrated delivery team consisting of Costain, Network Rail IP and supply chain members, all chosen for their knowledge, skills and behavioural suitability rather than their employer.

One significant change since we last met was the creation of a non-contractual, collaborative, customer-facing team designed to oversee Costain’s Kent contract and BAM Nuttall’s Sussex contract. However, as a non-contractual collaborative agreement, each contractor will be working to its original contractual requirements albeit sharing best practice, learning and reporting.

Relationship management plan

The development of the integrated team between Network Rail IP, Costain and its supply chain has had time to settle down to this new way of working 2015-06-03-samphire-hoe-st-5and, although both Network Rail and Costain are BS11000 accredited, BSI carried out an external audit of the integrated team in February 2015 to ensure compliance with the principles of BS11000. As part of this process, both parties jointly produced and agreed a Relationship Management Plan for the framework. The plan captures important issues such as what can be shared, what should not be shared, the integrated team structure, how they can learn from each other, sharing best practice and their combined approach to safety.

Originally the integrated team was about 70 people, but this has increased to about 120 with the current flow of work. This is in line with Andy’s expectations over the five years. More than 125 schemes have been identified and to date, 15 have been completed, 41 are in progress, leaving 69 in the pipeline.

The DRAM has a business plan which includes the anticipated cost for carrying out each item of work. The challenge for the framework team is to work collectively, injecting innovation and efficiency into the process while ensuring that the cost of the work sits within the client’s business plan budget.

The anticipated benefits are that Network Rail no longer seeks the services of a designer to develop a scheme and then tenders to find a suitable contractor to execute the work. For all the projects underway and completed, Network Rail has gone straight to the integrated framework team which, in turn, has provided a complete service by addressing the problem that the DRAM/ REM wants to resolve and finding a cost effective solution.

A practical example of this approach is a scheme, carried out early in 2015, to repair the cast iron columns supporting Hungerford Bridge which spans the Thames from Charing Cross station across to the south bank. The columns were badly cracked and needed to be stitched. Normal access scaffolding was considered to be unacceptable, partly because of cost, security risk and safety, the seven-metre tidal flow levels of the river and the need to keep the shipping lanes open.

Stitching columns

The integrated team came up with a unique and cost effective solution. Hanging gantries were designed and built that fitted the profile of the column and were suspended from the bridge deck structure. The gantries could be raised and lowered with the tide. Their slim profile did not interfere with the river traffic passing under the bridge and, because they could be wrapped in Monarflex, all debris – including iron fillings – could be collected and cleared away with a vacuum cleaner. CAN Geotechnical provided the gantries and access equipment and Metalock stitched the cracked columns. It was a simple and effective solution, brought about by all those involved sitting round a table together and contributing their specific area of expertise.

This was a mantra that Andy kept using: understand the problem, identify the skills required to resolve it, enable the representatives of these skill sets to get together and establish a cost-effective solution. It’s a team approach without a contractual interface in sight.

Rock fall catch fence

Another example of this approach was work carried out on the White Cliffs of Dover at Samphire Hoe between Shakespeare Cliff and Abbot’s Cliff tunnels. Over the years, rock debris has fallen onto the tracks creating a significant safety hazard. To address this problem, a signalling trip wire was placed along the base of the cliff alongside a catch fence designed to prevent falling rocks landing on the railway below. Over the years, falling rock debris was a fairly common event, causing significant disruption to train schedules.


However, an additional problem started to emerge when large falling boulders managed to bounce over the fence and land on the tracks without activating a signal. For Network Rail, this was a significant safety risk and something needed to be done.

The team was charged with finding an effective solution as soon as possible. With the help of suppliers CAN Geotechnical, a design produced by Fairhurst for soil nailing and rock netting with a rock fall catch fence was chosen. A 1200 metre rock fall catch fence was erected about a third of the way up the cliff in a 52 hour possession, not an easy task. The size of the catch fence varies between two and four metres high to minimise the visual impact as this is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an Area of Outstanding Beauty, thus requiring the solution to be licenced by Natural England.

Also, just recently in January, the railway between Dartford and Lewisham, on the Bexleyheath line, was closed for nearly three days due to a landslip near Barnehurst Station. More than 200 tonnes of soil, debris and two trees slipped down onto the tracks, dislodging signal location boxes as well as other signalling equipment.

As a short-term solution, 60 tonnes of ballast bags were brought in to create a temporary retaining wall to protect the tracks and enable the signalling equipment to be reinstated, tested and commissioned. This is only a temporary measure to allow the railway to open whilst a more detailed survey of this unstable embankment is carried out and a permanent solution found.

Supply chain involvement

There are 28 key suppliers involved with this collaborative contract. Some are relishing the concept, some are fitting in and a few are finding it difficult to conduct business, but this is to be expected. There are a number of graduates who are really benefiting from this approach and the diversity of work available, and the contract has attracted a number of apprentices who are both learning and developing their engineering skills every day.

Andy has asked one of his team, Juliette Gecas – the collaborative manager for Costain, to stand back and capture what is being done and compare it to how it would have been done in the past. The aim of this exercise is to establish evidence to determine exactly how beneficial this collaborative approach is to everyone concerned. It is an attempt to capture the real value when adopting a collaborative approach, not only for Costain, but for Network Rail and the supply chain as well.

This is a challenging piece of work, and an invaluable one, for the industry. It offers an opportunity for all concerned to consider the value or otherwise of adopting the concept of collaborative working while recognising that value means different things to different people.

Photos courtesy of CAN Geotechnical.