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Network Rail plans £2bn IT investment as it prepares for a digital railway

The IT spending plans will underpin Network Rail’s bid to create a digital railway that delivers faster, more frequent and safer services to millions of passengers

 

Network Rail is set to spend £2bn on IT goods and services over the next decade as part of a technological overhaul of the UK’s railway system, it has revealed.

The publicly-owned organisation – which manages most of Britain’s rail network infrastructure – included the figure in a new “Supplier Qualification System” (SQS) for potential IT partners posted on Europe’s electronic tenders hub Ted today, Compelo tech title Computer Business Review (CBR) exclusively reports.

The SQS was released after Network Rail published a strategy last week to digitalise the nation’s railways, which currently run on mainly legacy infrastructure analogue systems such as analogue signalling systems.

Upgrades are expected to deliver faster, more frequent and safer services to millions of passengers across the country.

First stop on the digital railway train

An initial near-term £25m tender by Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, launching June 22, will cover “software as a service” for a wide range of back-end applications, the SQS highlighted.

Medium-term IT spending will include investment in professional services across IT architecture, benchmarking, consultancy and information security, as well as mobile application development and integrated “infrastructure-as-a-service” the notice says.

Network Rail told CBR the figure was based on “on current and forecast demand” without offering further details.

Spokesman Jack Harvey added: “Interaction with the supply chain has indicated that suppliers want better access to the Network Rail technology supply chain and a more efficient contracting process.”

The organisation says more than half of Britain’s analogue systems will need to be replaced within the next 15 years.

Biggest tech breakthrough since the Sixties

In a statement accompanying the unveiling of its new digital railway strategy last week, chief executive Mark Carne said: “Not since the railway transformed from steam to diesel in the 1960s has a technological breakthrough held such promise to vastly improve our railway.”

As Network Rail ramps up its digitalisation drive, the company believes it will need to spend £2bn on IT services that will underpin the technological transformation.

To read the full story, visit CBR here.