You’ve now got to be big to do IT for Network Rail

I noticed this article appear on The Register┬áthis afternoon. Caught my interests as it’s crosses tech and travel industries.

The main gist of this is that Network Rail, the organisation responsible for rail infrastructure in Great Britain, has changed it’s IT procurement strategy, creating a framework with 5 massive players able to bid for the work in the future.

No doubt dealing with just 5 large organisations is helpful to whoever is managing contracts at Network Rail, who up until now may have had over 250 different IT suppliers.

The questions immediately occurring in my mind are:

  • Does this risk stifling of innovation? By excluding smaller, agile companies from participating, does it run the risk of NR’s IT becoming dominated by expensive, white elephant, gold-plated mega-systems that try to boil the sea?
  • Do the cost savings from easier contract management actually weigh up against the threat of an oligopoly developing, which could force up the price for IT services? It’s unlikely that all 5 suppliers in the framework would bid for every tender or work package, maybe two or three would?
  • How does this line up with one of the alleged benefits of rail privatisation: the dismantling of the BR monolith would allow entrepreneurial organisations to operate in the sector, this is something which has probably only had limited success and then only in specific areas.

At the end of the day, it’s public money that Network Rail is spending here. Hmm…

Torrential Tannoys – can’t we just have a quiet life?

They say life imitates art, and one area I think this is true is in the growing number of speakers blasting out banal “information” tannoys. If you think of any fiction set in the future with some controlling regime (1984, Brave New World, Blakes 7), there are droning announcements blighting the lives of the citizens as they try to go about their daily business.

Anyone who uses public transport in the UK should be able to relate to this – the never-ending torrent of automated announcements that seem to bury useful information (like which station is next) in a stream of verbose drivel (to mind the gap, take our stuff with us, and remember to breathe).

Is “tannoy” really a portmanteau of “to annoy”?

Continue reading “Torrential Tannoys – can’t we just have a quiet life?”