ORR ‘s wrong signal

Informed Sources

Market study of signalling highlights naiveté 

Expertise and experience undervalued 

Digital signalling misunderstood

Back in January 2020, the Office of Rail and Road announced it was mounting a market study into rail signalling systems. This set the alarm sirens wailing in the ‘Informed Sources’ early warning bunker.

If there is one thing that a professional lifetime’s experience of railway procurement has taught me, it is that market studies of equipment supply are bedevilled by equivalence – the assumption that all companies, their products, their competence and their experience can be assumed to be equal.

This is not unique. Doctrinaire procurement, the scourge of Britain’s railways both before and after privatisation, is based on the same belief.

Anyway, the Covid crisis saw the market study suspended. But by November ORR had decided that ‘now is the right time to open this market study as industry personnel and evidence is now likely to be available’. As if ‘industry personnel’ didn’t have enough on their plate already.

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