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The power of RISQS

The future of rail demands safer systems while saving money

Britain enjoys the safest of Europe’s 10 biggest railway systems. But any railway, even ours, is potentially dangerous. This is because trains are big, fast and complicated – as are the systems that support and maintain them.

The rail industry has long, complex supply chains, with a huge number of moving parts. Its technology and systems are becoming ever more advanced. And as it transports millions of passengers, it must prioritise safety, both for the public and rail workers.

All of this means that the pressure is mounting, especially as the drop in passenger numbers post-pandemic demands ever-increasing efficiency, too. In such a safety and cost-conscious environment, we can compare simple, comprehensive supplier assurance to a vitally important slice of cheese. Yes: cheese.

How is supplier assurance like Swiss cheese?

James Reason’s Swiss cheese “model” describes system failures in complex systems. It includes a series of barriers that prevent hazards from having serious consequences. But each barrier has its own weaknesses (or holes), which can let certain hazards through (and make them look like Swiss cheese). So layering on more barriers (or slices) makes it less likely that any hazards will make it through them all to cause a problem.

In the rail industry sandwich, supplier assurance is one of many slices of cheese. But as technology becomes more complex, and cost pressures rise, the performance of each slice as a barrier will become more important. That’s where the Rail Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme (RISQS) comes in.

More confidence – less time and money

Robust regulation is vital to the smooth, safe running of the rail industry. Doing things well – knowing what good looks like and making sure it happens – makes everyone safer. (From train crews and passengers, to the teams in buyers’ procurement departments.)

Following standards makes sure that everyone’s working at the same levels of quality and safety. But businesses can’t just say they meet those standards – they have to prove it. And proving it – which means an audit – costs buyers and suppliers alike, in time and money. The more audits needed to prove everyone’s performance is up to scratch… the more they cost.

Assurance doesn’t have to eat time and money

Because of the duplication of effort they saw in the past, rail buyers and suppliers haven’t always welcomed supplier assurance. It didn’t always represent the industry’s best interests. Sometimes it was even seen as a ‘tax on doing business.’

But there’s evidence that without simple, trusted supplier assurance, there’s less business to tax. In 2011, the Arthur D. Little report showed that the industry could save £30 to £35 million each year. Purely by eliminating duplication in the supplier assurance process, which included simplifying and improving it.

When the rail industry formed RISQS in 2013, the intent was to improve how all its suppliers proves their competence. The industry knew that duplicated and unnecessary effort was hurting productivity. The plan for RISQS was to offer trusted, cost-effective processes, allowing everyone to eliminate unnecessary multiple audits – as well as the countless working hours they eat up.

On your side (and everyone else’s)

RISQS is chaired and governed independently, by representatives from across the industry (including TfL, Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group). This comprehensive scheme lets industry players focus their efforts on the things that matter. We help clear away inefficiency, charge fair prices, and ensure standards and audits are up to date. After all, when everyone operates to the same transparent standards, the whole industry runs more smoothly.

RISQS can help maintain stronger foundations for rail’s commercial relationships. That’s why Network Rail continues to require direct suppliers to be members, and why TfL recently extended its use of RISQS.

And we offer better value than ever – after running on its new platform for just one year, RISQS cut the prices of membership fees and audit day rates. What’s more, every penny of surplus we see goes back to supporting the rail industry. Helping it operate more efficiently, effectively, sustainably and safely.

RISQS gives everyone in GB rail a clear sight of what good looks like. That means we can all benefit from a better, safer railway.

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