Technology Strategy and Cross-Industry Benchmarking for BR

for Board Member for Engineering, British Railways

 May 1992 through April 1996


Objective: to develop and assist in the implementation in a revised technology strategy for BR

This project was designed to assist British Railways to restructure its research and development functions and processes in line with the more commercial “Organising for Quality” restructuring.  A draft technology strategy was accepted by the Board Member for Engineering, only to be overtaken by the privatisation process initiated by the Government.  As a result, the RTSC was commissioned to undertake a revised Technology Strategy in light of privatisation.  The resulting Strategy was supported by implementation assistance work performed by the RTSC.


Methodology / Analytics: a benchmarking review of the uk railway industry against other industries, and railways in other countries; development of best practice definitions for strategy and implementation of R&D and technology acquisition.

A great deal was learned from other transport and utility industries, particularly those that had undergone a transition to a privatised structure. The lessons learned from successful private sector railways were also applied. Comparisons were also made with other major national railways.  The resulting model of best practice strategy was then tested for its applicability, refined and accepted.  Implementation assistance included organisation structure, R&D project prioritisation systems, networking resources, technology search / watch, and procurement.  A subsequent, related project - a “Vision for the Future” of the railway system in the UK - has been utilised as a focus point for presentations to various railway industry conferences and the DTI’s Foresight Panel on Transport.


Results: contributions to BR’s re-structuring process and to the new units, including Railtrack (on signalling technology strategy and technology procurement), the ROSCo’s (on rolling stock technology strategy) and TOCs (on technology sourcing and equipment procurement)

During a period of great change, these products contributed to the implementation strategy of the elements of the privatisation plan that affected R&D.  The network of Centres of Excellence now developing in British Universities, and the growth of  strong partnerships with private companies, grew out of this early work.  The commercial culture that is now being refined within the industry was aided by this implementation work. The recommendations on technology specification and procurement have been adopted and are now promoted to the industry byRailtrack as accepted best practice.


THE RAILWAY TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY CENTRE in the CIVIL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT, IMPERIAL COLLEGE, Senior Associate, R.Hirsch, Director, W R Steinmetz, Chairman, Professor T M Ridley: