South Rail Systems Alliance: driving efficiency for Network Rail

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The South Rail Systems Alliance (SRSA) is helping deliver track and rail systems renewals more efficiently through its coordinated, one-team approach. 

Amid the current financial climate, the UK rail industry is facing an unprecedented challenge: how to build and maintain a network that is resilient, safe, and sustainable in the most cost-effective way possible.   

As government funding for rail projects competes with other budget priorities, Network Rail (NR) is having to demonstrate that public funds are being well invested — which is why improving efficiency is crucial for its success.   

Formed in 2019 between AECOM, Colas and NR, the SRSA is a 10-year framework that harnesses the benefits of collaboration to drive efficiency and tackle these sector challenges head on.    

A collaborative approach to project delivery   

The SRSA is one of three alliances appointed by NR to deliver their £5 billion programme of track and rail systems renewals across three UK regions. This collaboration between AECOM, NR and Colas is helping optimise time and cost efficiencies across the South of the UK.    

One positive outcome of the alliancing model is better coordination across teams, which means we can resolve challenges — including emergencies and unforeseen circumstances — faster and more effectively.    

With five emergency derailment works occurring in Year 3 at London Gateway, Whittlesea, Hoo Junction, Eastleigh and Salisbury, our teams rapidly mobilised to complete the emergency works. By working together to limit disruption, we reduced both cost and inconvenience for customers. 

Another way we’re improving efficiency is through progressive assurance (PA) techniques. PA brings designers, assurers and builders together for monthly reviews so that any issues or risks that emerge during the design process can be identified and managed from the outset — rather than further down the line.  

This ultimately leads to more cost-effective design solutions as it facilitates communication between all parties before the designs are realised. 

The benefits of a long-term alliance    

Longevity is a key advantage of the 10-year contract. As well as encouraging consistency, a long-term framework helps nurture stronger working relationships and drive continuous improvement via regular reviews.    

Thanks to those relationships, we are now involved in Governance for Railway Investment Projects (GRIP) stages 1-3, whereas previously we only worked on Stages 4-8.   

Through this earlier involvement, we have an overview of the entire project lifecycle, which eliminates transfer and handover issues and enables deeper engagement with the work as a result. 

To consistently improve efficiency, the SRSA’s benefits are quantified through an efficiency tracker. Using this digital tool, we can monitor efficiency savings and identify where targets weren’t met to enhance forward planning and continue delivering better value for money.

By working collaboratively, AECOM, with the other SRSA partners, is delivering vital services to improve the rail network across the South of the UK, enabling Network Rail to meet our number one priority of putting passengers first.

Richard Ballantine

Head of Finance and Commercial – South Rail Systems Alliance, Network Rail

Why collaboration and efficiency go hand in hand   

By working purposefully together, the SRSA serves as a strong example of how collaboration is driving efficiency in the rail sector. In our fourth and busiest year yet, we successfully delivered £301 million of work – the highest volume of three track renewal alliances in Great Britain.   

By adopting an alliance approach, we’re delivering vital services more effectively, limiting disruption and aligning with NR’s core objective of putting passengers first.