Network Rail’s key role with California high speed railway
High-speed rail development at home may be faltering, but for the overseas arm of Britain’s infrastructure agency, it’s a different story. Network Rail Consulting Inc, has been awarded a $73.2m (£57.5m, €66.7m) contract to provide systems engineering services to California’s High-Speed Rail Program. With construction under way, Network Rail Consulting Inc. will directly support the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Rail and Operations Delivery Branch in a partner role through to May 2029.
The five-year American contract for Network Rail represents only a fraction of a percentage point in the overall budget of Britain’s infrastructure agency. However, it is an emblematic success in the international arena. The overseas arm of NR will be supporting the development of the first dedicated high-speed railway in the USA, which will see 200mph (320 kph) trains linking the Los Angeles basin with San Francisco, with later branches to Sacramento and San Diego.
Wide-ranging integration including regulatory representation
Network Rail Consulting Incorporated is not new to the project. “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to continue our support to the California High-Speed Rail Authority”, said Nigel Ash, Chief Executive and Network Rail Consulting Global Managing Director.“Having been involved in the development of the California High-Speed Rail [CHSR] Program since 2015, this important investment is poised to be one of the most transformative infrastructure programs in U.S. history.”
Services supported by Network Rail Consulting will include asset management, rail engineering support and oversight, design and construction operations and maintenance oversight, network integration and program compliance, start-up and commissioning. An important part of the relationship will be the direct liaison with the competent body, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), for certification, rule of applicability, system safety and security.
International arm is less well understood back in the UK
Network Rail Consulting was established in 2012 to benchmark Network Rail’s capabilities in the international market and enhance the capabilities of its staff through international experience which could then be deployed back into its UK operations. The international arm of Network Rail is less well understood back in its homeland. The domestic operations of Network Rail are directly funded by the public purse, but that’s not the case for its international consultancy. Overseas operations are wholly funded from fees earned.
As part of the collaboration with CHSR, Network Rail will continue working with regional partners in California. The intention is to implement a statewide rail modernisation plan that will invest billions of dollars in local and regional rail lines to meet the state’s twenty-first-century transportation needs.
The ghost of Eisenhower may debate the significance of CHSR when compared to his interstate freeway system. There is no denying that his 1956 presidential bill hastened the demise of a meaningful national passenger rail network. However, advocates of high-speed rail in California believe that the project could spell the beginning of a renaissance. Least it be forgotten, the freeway system took fifty years to substantively complete. CHSR may have taken a while to get off the drawing board, but fifty years from now, and the infrastructure map of the USA could look very different.