Network Rail to utilise software which cut project cost by £30m during trial run

NETWORK Rail has said that it could potentially transform the way its major rail projects are delivered across Britain thanks to a new technology startup.

The rail management firm is utilising nPlan to use machine learning technology. Network Rail said the technology system will allow them to use data from past projects to produce accurate cost and time forecasts – allowing for more efficiency in the way projects are planned and carried out.

Network Rail trialled nPlan’s risk analysis and assurance solution on the Great Western Main Line and Salisbury to Exeter signalling projects, which they said are two of its largest projects ever. The firm said that it saved them up to £30 million on the Great Wester Main Line project, primarily through the flagging of unknown risks to the project team – Network Rail said that such risks would be invisible to the human eye due to the size and complexity of the project.

The technology works by learning from patterns in historical project performance. The algorithm learns by comparing what was planned and what actually happened on a project at an individual activity level.

Following the successful trial, Network Rail said that it will now embark on the next phase of deployment of nPlan, with the roll out of the software on 40 projects before scaling up on all Network Rail proejcts by mid-2021.

Alastair Forbes, Network Rail’s programme director, said, “By championing innovation and using forward-thinking technologies, we can deliver efficiencies in the way we plan and carry out rail upgrade and maintenance projects. It also has the benefit of reducing the risk of project overruns, which means in turn we can improve reliability for passengers.”

Dev Amratia, CEO and co-founder of nPlan, added, “Network Rail is amongst the largest infrastructure operators in Europe, and adopting technology to forecast and assure projects can lead to better outcomes for all of Britain’s rail industry, from contractors to passengers. I look forward to significantly delayed construction projects, and the disruption that causes for passengers, becoming a thing of the past, with our railways becoming safer and more resilient.”