£300M Design Framework for Northern Powerhouse Rail Tendered


Network Rail

Network Rail Infrastructure has commenced procurement on a £300M development and design partnership framework (DDPF) to support Northern Powerhouse Railway (NPR), the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), Network North and the Eastern region.


The rail infrastructure body aims to appoint four suppliers to its DDPF, which encompasses the Eastern region and routes under NPR, IRP, and Network North.


The framework includes providing professional development, design, technical services, and all other necessary services to complete Engineering Stages (ES) 1 to 5 for the DDPF. Each program assigned to the framework suppliers will advance through the specified ES only when instructed:


  • ES1: Requirements defined and baseline
  • ES2: Constraints identified and project feasibility confirmed
  • ES3: Minimum Viable Product single option identified and endorsed
  • ES4: Approval in principle
  • ES5: Construction ready design approved and requirements validated


The framework will be awarded as a single lot. The £300 million value stated in the contract notice is an estimate only, and Network Rail notes that "the framework value and associated workbank is not guaranteed."


The allocation of work under the framework depends on funding and assignment by the Department for Transport (DfT), which acts as the client.


The framework’s initial term is five years, with an option for yearly extensions up to an additional three years.


The DDPF’s commercial model incorporates an incentivization mechanism based on a weighted scorecard driven by key performance indicators. This mechanism, which focuses on critical success factors, offers commercial opportunities to high-performing suppliers. These opportunities include advancing to further Engineering Stages for current suppliers and the allocation of new programs based on a “competitive performance leaderboard.”


While the contractual documentation is fixed and non-negotiable, there will be an opportunity for suppliers to comment on it. Network Rail will consider making revisions to the DDPF based on the objective merit of the proposed changes.


Negotiations on the commercial aspects will take place, allowing participants to update their tenders following these discussions. Initial tenders will be assessed, though feedback on these will not be provided to participants. Feedback will only be shared on final tenders.


To assist the supply chain in preparing for the tender release, Network Rail has scheduled a launch briefing for 7 June at 3 pm, to be held via MS Teams.


The full tender documentation, featuring illustrations of all the routes and projects covered by the framework will also be released tomorrow, 7 June.


The deadline for requests to participate is 4pm on 9 July and invitations to tender will be sent out on 8 August.


Routes and project to be covered


While the exact detail of routes and projects covered by the DDPF will not be clarified until the full tender documents are released on 7 June, the publicly available information suggests the following could be included.


Northern Powerhouse Railway:


A new railway connecting Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. In March the DfT laid out the next steps for the Liverpool to Manchester section, while the regional mayors recently established the Liverpool-Manchester Railway Board to facilitate this development.


The “full” NPR, initially announced in 2014, would see a high-speed railway all the way across the North, from Liverpool to Hull.


Integrated Rail Plan:


This 2021 DfT document committed to High Speed 2 (HS2) between Birmingham and Manchester and Birmingham to the Midlands, which are now axed.


It also committed to the “core” NPR from Liverpool to Leeds as mentioned above.


The IRP also included commitment to the £1.75bn Midlands Rail Hub. This is a series of interventions radiating out from Birmingham, stretching west to Bristol and Cardiff and east to Leicester and Lichfield. The DfT committed £123M towards it in April, which came after Network Rail commenced procurement for suppliers to join its £1.38bn Midlands Rail Hub Alliance.


Network North:


This document, released in October 2023, was intended to replace the cancelled legs of HS2.


As well as the aforementioned NPR and Midlands Rail Hub, it included rail promises such as:


  • Electrifying the track links between Hull, Leeds and Sheffield
  • Electrifying the Hope Valley Line (which is now completed)
  • A new station in Bradford
  • Electrification of the North Wales Main Line
  • Reopening historic lines such as the Don Valley Line from Sheffield to Stocksbridge and the Invanhoe line from Burton-upon-Trent to Leicester
  • Ely Junction upgrade


Eastern region:


This includes four major routes:


  • Anglia Route (encompassing Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and parts of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Greater London)
  • East Coast Route (including the East Coast Main Line)
  • East Midlands Route (including the Midlands Main Line)
  • North & East Route (including the Transpennine Route and serving Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Bradford, Huddersfield and others)


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