The next stage of Project SPEED will see the industry pioneer new ways of working to halve the time and reduce the cost of delivering critical infrastructure projects.
On 26 February 2021, with the launch of the next stage of Rail Project SPEED, the UK government challenged the rail industry to pioneer new ways of working in order to halve the time and reduce the cost of delivering critical infrastructure projects as the country builds back better out of COVID-19.
In a key note speech at the Project SPEED conference, hosted by the Rail Industry Association (RIA), the UK’s Rail Minister, Chis Heaton-Harris, invited the 1,800-strong virtual audience to get on board with the new approach to become faster, smarter and more efficient in the way that projects are delivered.
Rail Project SPEED (Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery) was jointly developed by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail in the summer of 2020. Infrastructure projects at different stages of development have been reviewed to identify how government funding could go further and how work could be carried out faster.
This approach identified 10 key themes to lower costs and speed up the delivery of infrastructure schemes, such as rapidly increasing the use of innovative construction methods and removing complexity from planning processes.
These new and innovative ways of working will be rolled out across all rail upgrades, with the intention of ensuring that passengers experience better journeys more quickly, giving greater value to taxpayers and transforming the pace and way in which our railways are improved.
A project already benefitting from Project SPEED principles is the scheme to reopen the Northumberland line between Ashington and Newcastle, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the infamous Beeching cuts.
Northumberland County Council, DfT, Network Rail and AECOM have collectively worked to identify opportunities to bring this into service as quickly as possible. This could take months off of the schedule and deliver efficiencies which save millions from the programme.
The UK’s Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “The whole country has relied on the transport industry over the past year, to keep the country moving, supplies delivered and key workers to their jobs saving lives. We are now depending on transport to kickstart our economic recovery. Rail Project SPEED, forged alongside Network Rail, is a call to arms to cut unnecessary red tape, be bold and purposeful and empower the railway to be radical in its thinking to halve the time and reduce the cost of delivering infrastructure projects. By maximising the benefits of every pound that we’re channelling into rail, we will make the case for continued investment. Our intention is to create a more resilient, resourceful and robust railway, equipped for the challenges ahead and delivering better for its passengers, as we build back better from COVID-19.”
Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s Chief Executive, said: “There has never been a more important time to make the case for rail. The pandemic has spurred us to make real progress in removing barriers that have long hindered industry transformation. But, of course, there is still much more to do, and we will do that faster and more effectively when we work together across the industry.”
At today’s conference, the Rail Minister has called on the supply chain to come up with creative ideas where they can help to reduce the cost of delivering infrastructure projects, with the best ideas set to recognised in future industry awards.
The launch of Rail Project SPEED builds on the new Acceleration Unit announced by the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, in August 2020 to complete public investment projects more strategically and efficiently.
The new DfT Unit brings together transport experts, ministers, businesses, local government and other specialists to inspire fresh ideas, getting to grips with opportunities to improve infrastructure delivery and help transport share best practice and learn from other industries.