Netcall | Customer Story

Powering Efficiency and Savings Across the Railway Network

Developing a new, bespoke Land & Consent Application using Liberty Create, our low-code platform.

Project highlights

  • Considerable cost and risk avoidance
  • Full visibility of ongoing projects
  • Consistent process established
  • Reduced wasted time and errors
  • Increased efficiency and accurate audit trail

Network Rail owns, operates and develops Britain’s railway infrastructure. That’s 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, thousands of signals, level crossings and 20 of the UK’s largest train stations, some of which are heritage buildings. As such, they are amongst the top 10 landowners in the UK, owning more than 100,000 acres in England alone.

Maintaining the nation’s infrastructure

To maintain the nation’s rail infrastructure, projects at Network Rail frequently work on and around the tracks — often needing to gain access via neighbouring properties, change heritage buildings or operate within an urban environment. There are hundreds of infrastructure projects throughout each year, but there wasn’t a central source for project managers to seek advice from relevant areas of expertise, nor to validate if access had previously been sought or granted. Such advice is critical to ensure that each project develops an effective property strategy.

­­The current ways of working relied on spreadsheets and correspondence by email and telephone. There was no central place to record this information, so consistency and audit trails were very limited. A project might require access to the track via another property, but this did not become evident until arriving on site. Time could be wasted and the works delayed until all the necessary permissions, easements (pre-negotiated fees to the land-owner to use a section of land) and possessions (enabling Network Rail to close a section of the track while works are carried out) were all correctly put in place.

Safety, efficiency and speed are always paramount at Network Rail

The Land & Consent Team saw the opportunity to improve efficiency by building a new, bespoke system to direct project managers through a more detailed and systematic proforma. This would guide them through the steps required to develop their property strategy — and provide an easy way to request information from, or ask questions of, areas of expertise such as the Town Planning and Property Services Teams.

One solution to meet all aspirations

Mark McMonagle, Business Systems Development Manager, and Steve Mellor, Principal Surveyor, built upon a pilot solution previously devised in conjunction with colleagues from nine different business areas. This original engagement across the organisation was crucial in developing a complete solution to streamline the process.

They worked with two developers from Netcall to develop a new bespoke application using Liberty Create, our low-code platform.

intelligent automation for logistics
The ability to secure land and consents advice in a consistent way during the early stages of railway projects will enable the formulation of cost-effective property strategies. This has the potential to immediately prevent costly oversights and delays; whilst retaining this information for the future will help inform future works and identify opportunities to reduce the costs of land access. Using Liberty Create to develop the tool enables us to prove the benefits of the tool without large up-front expenditure. This rapid development also allows the tool to be enhanced and improved rapidly based on user feedback.

Framework for efficiency

During the project build, Network Rail announced a new project governance framework process would be rolled out throughout the organisation. The GRIP framework (Governance for Rail Investment Projects) was replaced by PACE (Project Acceleration in a Controlled Environment). PACE offers more flexibility, which can be closely tailored to meet the needs of an individual project to improve trade-offs between time, cost and scope constraints.

The project team were able to pivot to the new framework easily and cater for both methodologies. Thanks to the flexibility and adaptability that Liberty Create offers, this ensured minimal impact during the transitional period.

The new Land & Consent Application went live in June 2021 as part of a small-scale initial trial. The plan is to refine and improve the tool before a national rollout. 

The tool will help safe guard against costly oversights and delays for Network Rail and it will help build harmonious on-going relationships with Network Rail’s neighbouring landowners by consulting them earlier.

Create. Launch. Refine.

Liberty Create has been well-received by the staff that are using it.

  • The rollout has benefitted from staff feedback and additional ideas
  • A key advantage of building apps in Liberty Create is the ability to adapt easily and quickly and put each new iteration to use immediately
  • Phase two of the application is already being planned, allowing for the current mapping capability to be enhanced and also enabling the addition of single sign-on
  • Steve Mellor, Principal Surveyor, who worked with Mark and the Netcall Developers on the Land & Consent Application, has been delighted with the speed of delivery and outcome
Working with Netcall has been extremely easy, we have developed a Land & Consents tool in a very short space of time, that is easy to use for Project teams and the specialists they require information from, allowing decisions to be made that will allow projects to be delivered with reduced cost and risk and will drive efficiencies in the future. The system brings together all of the information required in one place, with agreed SLAs, giving Projects the confidence to make the right decisions at the right time.
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