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Not All Technology Contract Opportunities Have Dried Up, as this £13 Million Tender Shows

Network Rail ploughs on with a £53 billion digitalisation programme

By CBR Staff Writer

Think all opportunities to tender for major technology contracts have vanished, as the coronavirus pandemic seizes the gears of the economy? Think again: Network Rail this week announced a £13 million opportunity to tender for hardware, software and communications equipment testing, as it continues a major digitalisation project.

The procurement, part of the Digital Railway Programme (DRP) was announced on a European tenders portal late Thursday. Network Rail – a public sector company that owns and operates the underlying railway infrastructure in England, Scotland and Wales – said in 2018 that it anticipates spending £2 billion on IT as part of the DRP.

(The Digital Railway Programme is ambitious project to modernise a wide range of legacy infrastructure across the railways, including analogue signalling systems.)

This week’s tender is a bid to catch and mitigate the interoperability issues that so often plague large-scale public sector IT projects (see the Emergency Services Network for a prime example of that), Network Rail said, describing the requirement as “scenario testing of… hardware, software and comms against the known and constantly updated configuration of the network which will provide early identification of any issues in advance of equipment installation and will therefore de-risk ETCS rollout cost.”

Network Rail added: “It is envisaged that the core requirements will comprise the delivery of a system integration (SI) lab that can provide a single testing platform system that is capable of integrating and testing different suppliers’ Trackside and Onboard ETCS products for different projects within the scope of the DRP.

ETCS refers to the core signalling and train control component of a standardised European Rail Traffic Management System. It continuously calculates a safe maximum speed for each train, with cab signalling for the driver and on-board systems that take control if the permissible speed is exceeded. For ETCS trackside equipment and train borne systems need to be standardised according to the different ETCS levels.

Specialists in software testing without any rail experience may be out of luck however: Network Rail only wants responses from “tenderers that can deliver the full scope of services and supplies required”. The contract lasts 120 months. Requests to participate need to be in by April 16, 2020. There is unlikely to be a shortage of further opportunities as the £53 billion modernisation project continues: earlier tenders noted by Computer Business Review include one for a sweeping CRM system overhaul

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