Press releases

Market study into rail signalling systems opened

12 November 2020

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today opened a market study into the supply of rail signalling systems to ensure the signalling supply chain is fair and competitive.

Signalling accounted for more than £4 billion of Network Rail’s spend over the five-year period between 2014 and 2019. This spend is forecast to significantly increase, as digital technology is rolled out across the network.

This study builds on previous work into signalling, notably ORR’s engagement with the European Commission about the proposed merger of Siemens/Alstom.

The study will:

  • Focus on the supply chain for the delivery of significant ‘major’ signalling projects;
  • Look at the strength of competition for tenders, and, incentives to compete in the market;
  • Consider whether there are any barriers to innovation, or market entry and the introduction of new technology; and
  • Look closely at the ability of the supply chain to build up capacity for the rollout of the digital railway.  

Recommendations or interventions arising from this study will ensure the supply chain is fair and competitive, capable of building up capacity for the rollout out of the digital railway, and deliver good outcomes for the ultimate benefit of passengers, taxpayers and other businesses which use the railway.

ORR closed a previous study in April 2020 to ensure efforts were focused on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tom Cole, Head of Competition at the Office of Rail and Road, said:

"Signalling systems are an essential part of the railway. They keep passengers safe by ensuring trains do not come into conflict with each other and play a key role in freeing up capacity on the network. 

"The ability for Network Rail to drive value for money when buying high-quality signalling systems is vital to its delivery of a reliable and efficient railway. 

"We consider now is the right time to open this market study as industry personnel and evidence is now likely to be available."

Notes to editors

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  1. ORR is the independent economic and safety regulator for the railways in Great Britain, and the monitor of performance and efficiency for England’s motorways and trunk roads. We keep the provision of railway services under review and monitor the competitive situation in rail services markets.
  2. Market studies can lead to a variety of outcomes including:
    • Clean bill of health
    • Referring the market to the Competition and Markets Authority for a more in-depth investigation which could result in powerful remedies
    • Taking consumer or competition law enforcement action
    • Making recommendations to the government to change regulations or public policy
    • Actions which improve the quality and accessibility of information to consumers
    • Encouraging businesses in the market to self-regulate