Stoke MDU Success Supports Network Rail’s New Contestability Agenda

The Stoke Maintenance Delivery Unit (Stoke MDU), a scheme designed by Pell Frischmann in collaboration with contractor Cleshar, has been chosen by Network Rail as a best practice example of their new contestability concept.

The pilot scheme, taken to GRIP Stage 3 by Pell Frischmann, sees the replacement of several individual cabins and containers used to provide staff welfare, offices and storage for equipment or materials with a £3.2M new build structure.

The idea of contestability is driven by Network Rail’s belief that, although Network Rail owns and operate Britain’s railway, they shouldn’t be the only organisation that can build on it. To help organisations get involved, the concept of contestability aims to share and open projects up for other organisations to deliver.

Pell Frischmann, working with partners McBains and Desco, provided multi-disciplinary design services for the project, including Architecture, Civil, Structural and MEP Engineering, Fire and Communications, Surveying, Cost Planning, and Traffic Management.

Stoke MDU - Pell Frischmann

Key to the client was the whole life costing and recognition of embodied carbon with the build and during use. The design uses a low carbon material call Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) which is much cheaper, greener and quicker to install. SIPs are often used in the wider building industry but are not commonly used within Network Rail, exemplifying the innovation that can be brought into the rail sector via the contestability agenda.

Jon McPhee, Rail Sector Director for Pell Frischmann, said:

In developing the Stoke MDU SIPs solution, we were able to engage with Network Rail stakeholders in a way that allowed us to more easily bring together ideas, learning and innovation sourced from the varied sectors and disciplines in which we work. Well done Network Rail for this initiative.

Many of Network Rail’s smaller infrastructure projects can be delivered in a way that does not impact the operational railway, known as ‘high street’ projects. It is these ‘high street’ projects most suitable to contestability. Following the success of pilot schemes such as the Stoke MDU, Network Rail have introduced the concept to a wider audience. Through this, Network Rail believes it could potentially save 30% on their £200M MDU portfolio.

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