Network Rail focuses on partnership with SMEs

UK’s infrastructure manager Network Rail will focus on a more effective cooperation with small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The company intends to increase its annual expenditure to be spent via SMEs to 33 per cent by 2022. To this end, Network Rail will develop more opportunities for a mutual partnership.

The new goal of Network Rail is in line with the Government policy on improving cooperation with SMEs. In this regard, Britain’s rail infrastructure manager has set up this target in its ‘SME Action Plan’. By the end of the 2019/2020 financial year, the SMEs share in the Network Rail’s expenditure must be 31 per cent. In the next two years, it must be increased up to 32 and 33 per cent respectively. During the last three years, Network Rail has already improved this figure by five per cent. As of today, over 30 per cent of it amounts, the UK’s infrastructure manager spends on contracts with SMEs.

“Small companies play a significant role in the growth of the economy. First and foremost, they create jobs, accounting for circa 15.7 million; 60 per cent of all private-sector employment in the UK. SMEs are also important to Network Rail, as this business community is recognized as being highly adaptive and innovative,” the document says. During the 2018/19 financial year Network Rail contracted directly with 4,000 suppliers; 71 per cent of these were small to medium-sized enterprises.

Six areas

The ‘SME Action Plan’ focuses on six areas of improvement: engagement, pre-procurement, procurement, contract management, supplier management and innovation. Within each area, Network Rail is committed to implementing several measures. They have been developed as a result of feedback from working groups including the Rail Industry Association (RIA), Railway Industry Contractors Association (RICA), the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB), Midlands Rail Forum (MRF), the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Inter alia, Network Rail plans to provide ‘Meet the buyer’ events for better engagement of SMEs. It will also improve procurement processes and contract requirements in order to make them more appropriate to SMEs.

“The steps we are taking will make us easier to do business with, from simplifying our processes and providing clarity on what we want from suppliers, to better supplier management, clearer sourcing pipelines and a move away from zero-value frameworks,” commercial director at Network Rail Ken Blackley noted. Moreover, he has been appointed as a central SME champion at Network Rail. The rail infrastructure manager is also appointing the regional SME champions. Network Rail calls SMEs to contact him directly via e-mail.

Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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