#MyRIAStory

Chris Harris, Sales Manager - Mass Transit, Tratos

Over-burdensome standards have long been a ‘bug bear’ of many suppliers in the rail industry. In this new #MyRIAStory post, Chris Harris of Tratos sets out how, with RIA’s support, they have been challenging Network Rail’s standards through a new process.

Technical standards are critical for the safety and effective running of the railway. They ensure components are fit for use and provide a uniformity and consistency across the network. However, in some cases, standards can be outdated and burdensome – stopping new and innovative products entering the market. 

An idea from a RIA Technical Interest Group 

Chris Harris, Sales Manager of cabling manufacturer Tratos, was one of those businesses that felt standards were stopping their innovative products from coming to market. But it was only when he came to one of RIA’s Technical Interest Groups that he found a solution to the issue.

“We’ve been members of RIA for over seven or eight years. And the benefits we’ve found are attending the various Technical Interest Groups, particularly the Infrastructure and Traction & Rolling Stock Groups. It was at a Infrastructure Technical Interest Group where the Standards Challenge came up.” Chris tells us. 

Ultimately it’s about whole life cost and reducing the final cost. There’s a lot happening in standards. It’s a positive news story.

The ‘Standards Challenge’ Chris refers to was an idea that a process could be set up, run by Network Rail and in partnership with the industry, to challenge standards the sector thought needed to be amended.

“Someone from Network Rail came and spoke to the Group. RIA’s Technical Director David Clarke was facilitating it, and in a way, David encouraged us to say: ‘well if something’s not right with standards, you’ve got to go for it’.”

The Standards Challenge

Following the event, RIA worked with Network Rail to set up the Standards Challenge. The principle was simple - suppliers could submit an application to change a standard where they considered it to be “incorrect, not enable the application of best practice, or drive increased cost without comparable benefit.”, as the Network Rail website says. Network Rail would then review whether there was reason to change it.

RIA’s David Clarke was instrumental in advising about the step processes and the importance of doing these things.

Chris says the process evolved over time: “We had a bit of a false start on it because some of the forms were a bit onerous and we thought “this is a big ask”. He adds: “But we had David’s input and Tratos has now submitted two Standard Challenges which are now at Full Review [the final stage of the process].”

The standards he talks about are for railway signalling cabling, one of which he says is over 20 years old. He describes how Tratos are looking to get a new specification for rubber signalling cable, and a timeline has been put in place for the specification to come out in 2022. 

The Impact

“RIA’s David Clarke was instrumental in advising about the step processes and the importance of doing these things.” Chris says. He sees the process as being a positive experience, telling us that it has really changed the way things are done. 

“Ultimately it’s about whole life cost and reducing the final cost. There’s a lot happening in standards. It’s a positive news story.” 

We’ve been members of RIA for over seven or eight years. And the benefits we’ve found are attending the various Technical Interest Groups.

And it seems that it’s not only Chris who has found value from the process. Network Rail’s website now claims that of the standard challenges received to date, over 70% have resulted in agreement being reached with the standard owner to modify the standard. The process was also so successful that it has been replicated by Transport for London, again following a workshop with RIA.

The Future

And what for Tratos as a company as it looks to the future? “We feel positive but [the next few years] are going to be a big challenge.” Chris tells us.

 

He says, though, that RIA’s work has been greatly valued, not only with the Standards Challenge. A visit by RIA to Tratos’ site in 2019 with the Traction & Rolling Stock Group led to new business leads for the organisation.

And more recently, Tratos have meetings with some of the Joint Ventures working in the telecoms packages of work for HS2, following a HS2 Meet the Bidder process run by RIA in the summer of 2021.

 

Whether it’s the Standards Challenge or HS2, there are opportunities abound in the UK rail sector.

Interested in becoming a RIA Member?

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Email: rose.garber@riagb.org.uk
Phone: +44 (0)7824 665 007

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