Urban rail rolling stock procurement survey highlights trends

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UITP’s Regional and Suburban Rail (RSR) Committee discusses many key issues facing public transport and railway operators. One key issue frequently cited by the members of the group is the complexity and challenges posed by the rolling stock procurement process as organisations look to respond to customers and provide the standard of service they look for.

A small focus group was formed to help members pinpoint exactly where the main pain points were, and to learn from each other where organisations have found effective ways of overcoming the challenges.

The focus group’s task was to investigate good practice for managing the process with particular attention on communication. A survey was prepared and validated by the RSR Committee.

After substantial efforts, the working group collected 11 responses with supporting interviews for the majority. It is important to note that a number of organisations felt unable to respond as they were in the middle of a rolling stock procurement exercise and so had not completed sufficient stages when approached to provide meaningful responses. Nevertheless, they did indicate that already they were finding the complex and time consuming approvals process to be major issue.

All responders recognised that the timescales involved should never be underestimated as they are lengthy (can be up to eight years) and could lengthen still further when presented with legal challenges to the award of contract decision. Indeed, this length could at times prove very problematic when viewed in the context of the overall length of the franchise/contract to operate the service and passenger growth predictions. Having said that, a desire to decouple the rolling stock procurement process from the operation call for tenders was recommended.

Responders acknowledged the need for a strong collaborative approach throughout the process between the supplier and the procurer. However, this recommended approach was often constrained by the need to preserve commercial confidentiality and so was especially difficult in the pre-contract phases of the project.

It was acknowledged that the ecosystem of the procurement process, with multiple stakeholders makes the process complex and requires proven project management skills, and a tight organisation. Continuous and appropriate communication and interaction with all stakeholders throughout is necessary to successfully manage expectations and ensure smooth later stages. It was found that any complexity or ambiguity of each other’s roles risks delays in the process. One such important stakeholder group politicians should be heavily engaged early in the process to help secure funding and drive the initial process but then be kept out of the decision-making process to avoid changes on ever changing and evolving political views.

Early train operator involvement (& leadership) is critical, and recognised so, even when the train operator is not the procurer. Similarly, early engagement and involvement with the infrastructure manager is also critical.
 

Read more in the full article with survey results, trends and observations on MyLibrary (members only)!
 

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