September 30th, 2016

‘Smaller firms need to be given a chance’, says Longbridge signal company boss

‘Smaller firms need to be given a chance’, says Longbridge signal company boss ‘Smaller firms need to be given a chance’, says Longbridge signal company boss
Updated: 3:54 pm, Apr 15, 2016

A LONGBRIDGE rail services provider has claimed Network Rail’s inefficient work contracts were jeopardising improvements to passenger services.

Miles Hancock, the managing director of rail signalling company AM Rail Group, has written a letter in response to last year’s Hendy Report which highlighted a shortage of skills in certain areas of the rail industry.

“We have those skills but they are not being fully utilised because it takes so long for the bigger companies to delegate the work.”

He told the Standard: “We’re a bit like the unsung heroes who get called in at the last minute by these larger companies – and this wastes time and could ultimately result in delayed services.”

Mr Hancock said there were very few small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that specialised in rail signalling services.

He added, by dealing directly with specialist companies like his, Network Rail would not only save taxpayers’ money, but also prevent delays in major infrastructure projects, avoid passenger overcrowding, reduce journey time and enhance capacity with frequency of trains.

Mr Hancock called for a more open and competitive tendering process and said the monopolisation of work risked the success of planned improvements to the railway system.

A spokesperson for Network Rail told the Standard: “We made more improvements to the railway last year than has happened at any time in the last 150 years.

“Every month, we build the equivalent of an Olympic stadium worth £500million, all on a live railway carrying more than 4.5million people a day.

To do this, we work with thousands of companies from all over Britain, including many in the West Midlands.

“As a public company, our procurement processes are completely open and transparent and are designed to deliver best value for everyone who helps fund the railway.”

But Mr Hancock said the issue was about the shortage of skills in the rail signalling sector which his company could provide.

Network Rail added it had nothing further to say.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport told The Standard: “We recognise small business are vital to economic growth, and can bring significant expertise and innovation to the rail industry.

“We expect Network Rail, like all other public bodies, to ensure it makes good use of all of the skills and resources available in the supply chain in order to deliver our rail investment programme efficiently and effectively.”