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The broad-reaching and complex nature of the UK railway networks means there is a continuous demand for high-quality specialists to deliver every aspect of the works, from maintenance on existing tracks to full overhaul of rail fleet wheelsets.

The rail sector is always evolving, so an emphasis on precision, efficiency and innovation underpin all rail tenders. When the specialist supply chains needed for each area are factored in, the sheer variety of opportunities in the rail sector is without equal. However, the sector also demands a more rigorous approach to efficiency and effective governance than many others: delays in service will be felt across the full network, and health and safety measures are extensive and complex, requiring specialist clearance and effective coordination with multiple stakeholders.

Rail Bid Opportunities

Rail bid opportunities for SMEs will typically include bidding into larger concerns, such as Network Rail or Transport for London to deliver a set service. However, given the diversity of services and works needed, the tender opportunities are both plentiful and accessible.

Examples of rail bid opportunities include:

  • Supplier contracts for essential materials, including:
    • Top contact polymeric insulators
    • Tensioning devices
    • High-performance switch system mechanical components
    • Rail fleet vehicle spares
    • Concrete railway sleepers
  • Contracts to provide specialist training, such as:
    • Project management training
    • Design for reliability advance courses
    • HR advise and guidance
    • ‘Non-rail’ training
  • Various services, both linked to the network itself and to improve the customer experience, including:
    • Supply of infrastructure haulage services
    • Management of advertising space on rail franchises
    • Management of ATM services
    • Management and supply of free public Wifi
    • The hiring of on-track plant
  • Providing specialist, bespoke services:
    • Framework contracts for geotechnical works
    • Design and supply of enhanced warning devices
    • Design and supply of level crossing obstacle detection system.

The UK’s railway infrastructure always features in the department for transport government efforts to boost productivity, increase the efficiency of service, and create jobs. As such, there are numerous ongoing investments in the rail industry, including:

  • The £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund, with considerable investment in six combined authorities
  • Replacement, renovation, and expansion of the Tyne and Wear Metro service, with £337 million from the National Productivity Investment Fund being invested in new and more energy-efficient vehicles.
  • Digital upgrade schemes to fit state-of-the-art in-cab signalling across a range of trains to the tune of £84 million
  • £35 million to be invested in improving mobile phone communications for rail passengers
  • £2 million investment to investigate and assess connectivity improvements from Coventry to Leamington
  • Multiple investments in infrastructure upgrades for Wales, with a focus on improving journey times between Swansea and Cardiff; South Wales, Bristol and London; and North Wales main lines.

As further evidence of significant investment in the UK rail sector, since 2012, Network Rail has awarded 15,249 contracts with an approximate total award value of £409 billion. Complete or part construction and civil engineering works have provided the biggest volume of work for Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, with the 62 awards amounting to £5.26 billion (56% of the total awarded since 2012). Transport for London has awarded 79 contracts worth a collective £858 million in the same timeframe, but also showed an increase in contract award volumes over the past five years, with award volumes doubling between 2014 and 2017.

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    Winning Rail Tenders

    Executive Compass has been instrumental in the successful delivery of PQQ and tender submissions into the rail sector, and are experts in the bid process. Our previous projects include:

    • Provision of buildings and civil works for Network Rail
    • The hiring of road-rail plant, operators and attachments for Network Rail
    • Provision of planned and reactive maintenance of tunnel critical pumps on Transport for London’s Crossrail system

    This is made possible through a combination of in-house specialists in the railway sector, NEBOSH qualified staff, and intricate knowledge of the tender process as a whole. Further, because of our experience across other sectors, we will also add value to the ‘non-railway’ areas of contracts, ensuring your prospective clients know precisely what you can offer them, and how it sets you apart from your competitors.

    Areas of Note in Rail Tenders

    • Regardless of the rail service you are providing, you will need to work with a range of stakeholders: effective communication and collaboration should remain a common theme throughout your tender
    • Health and safety is of unparalleled importance; as per the statistics provided by the Office of Rail and Road, the
    • London Underground’s workforce injuries are down 6.4% from 2016–2017. You will need to demonstrate how you will help maintain and improve upon these statistics.
    • Customer service will be crucial to maintaining effective relationships with the most important stakeholders of all. While you may not always be working in the public eye whilst rail contracting, you will need to maintain the reputation of your client through integrity and conscientiousness, regardless of the public’s behaviour towards you or your staff.

    Executive Compass recognises the challenges posed in rail tenders and the priority areas of the rail sector, and we will draw on our considerable experience in the completion of SQs and PQQs to provide expert consultancy and guidance on your tendering needs. Our services include a ‘bid, no bid’ advisory stage, where if we believe a contract is not right for you, we will always advise you before you choose to bid for the opportunity. Additional services we can offer include the ongoing review of opportunities that will fit your organisation, leading to a holistic bid writing service.

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