NETWORK Rail ended its last contracts for routine maintenance of the UK rail infrastructure on July 26, when it completed a 13-month process to bring the work in-house. The last five of 20 contract areas were transferred to direct NR control from Carillion and AMEC, bringing the total number of staff transferred to 15594.

After bringing the Thames Valley area in-house in June 2003 to provide a benchmark for other maintenance contracts, the NR board decided in October to embark on what Deputy Chief Executive Iain Coucher called an ’immense’ programme (RG 6.04 p345).

Transferring the 20 areas back from seven contractors has cost NR £50m, but is expected to bring savings of £700m over the next five years through improved efficiency and economies of scale. Coucher said the end of cost-plus contracts and a simplified management structure would allow NR to ’get on top of every cost element’, and give ’full visibility’ of asset condition.

Another benefit is expected to come in performance. On August 16 NR said it had achieved its best July result for four years, with a 28% year-on-year fall in delay- minutes attributed to the business during the four-week period. The first three areas to come in-house performed particularly well, with delays cut by 50% in Wessex and East Midlands, and by 36% in Thames Valley.