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Network Rail Bid Writing for Frameworks


Written by Chris Turner


Jan 31, 2023

Network Rail owns, manages and develops our railways across England, Scotland and Wales. As well as all the tracks, bridges and tunnels, this also includes 20 of the largest stations. They employ 6,000 people and in 2020 they were responsible for 25% of all construction spending in the UK. To give you an idea of scale, in 2021, their spending across all suppliers equated to nearly £3.5bn.

They operate over 60 services and require everything from recruitment services to HR and training, from vegetation management to consultancy services, as well as their core requirements to build and maintain the rail infrastructure.

We have been helping clients to respond to Rail tenders for over 10 years, thanks to our team of professional bid writers. For Network Rail opportunities, we can provide a full bid writing support solution, allowing our clients to focus on the provision of their service and pricing, while we work on developing the very best tender responses.

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Network Rail Frameworks – over 35% of suppliers are SMEs!

We specialise in bid writing and bid management services for SMEs. Network Rail presents a great opportunity for SMEs with 35.6% supply chain representation. This includes frameworks, contracts and supply chain opportunities via Tier 1 suppliers/ contractors.

To understand what a ‘framework’ is click this link to see our detailed overview.

Network Rail has identified the barriers and challenges for SMEs when bidding for formal contracts have created procurement solutions to make them more accessible. This includes:

  • Assessment of insurance requirements
  • Stopping the use of performance bonds
  • Provide a tender pipeline to allow bid preparation and planning. You can monitor Network Rail spend, contracts registers, category manager contact details, tender and renewals here
  • Simplified PQQs (pre-qualification questionnaires) with fewer questions – we explain what a PQQ is in this article
  • Increase early engagement, and time with Network Rail to understand the requirements
  • Focus on delivering Social Value. We have developed a detailed article on Social Value when bidding, including examples, which can be found here
  • Network Rail Fair Payment Charter - which includes agreeing on fair terms and conditions, main contractors being paid within 21 days and subcontractors' payments not exceeding 28 days
  • Having a dedicated Network Rail SME Champion
  • A commitment to move away from ‘nil value frameworks’ with a focus more on specific contracts
  • Tier 1 suppliers of Network Rail to commit and report on SME spending in their supply chain.

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Network Rail Frameworks 2023

As a bid director, company director or business development team it is important to understand what Network Rail buys and what tenders are likely to be available in order to you to plan for any upcoming opportunities:

Network Rail Procurement/ Framework Categories


Utility tenders

Electricity, water and gas for offices, stations and depots, including electricity for powering trains

Track tenders

Track renewal projects and maintenance support

Telecoms tenders

Operational telecoms, all voice and data, and hardware

Switches and crossings, and ancillaries tenders

Modular and traditional railway switches and crossings, including related ancillaries (switches and crossings are part of the rail system at junctions between different rail lines)

Supplies and services tenders

Equipment used by operational staff: office supplies, uniforms, and corporate travel and accommodation

Sleepers and bearers tenders

Concrete, steel and timber sleepers and bearers, and cable troughing (sleepers hold the rails apart and support the track on the ballast)

Signalling tenders

Design, build and maintenance of railway signalling systems

Security solutions tenders

Security equipment, manned security and policing costs

Road fleet tenders

Road fleet costs, including purchase, hire and maintenance.

Recruitment services tenders

Recruitment services related to both permanent and temporary staff (excluding consultants and contingent labour)

Railway spares tenders

Spares required for the maintenance of the railway infrastructure

Rail haulage tenders

Logistics and operation of rail haulage

Rail fleet tenders

Purchase and maintenance of rail wagons and locomotives, including seasonal treatment fleet

Rail and ancillaries tenders

Short (60ft) rail

Professional services tenders

Railway infrastructure design, technical consultancy and commercial services

Plant and tools tenders

Plant and tools, including hand tools and portable plant

On-track plant tenders

On-track plant (for example, road rail vehicles)

On-track machines tenders

On-track machines for treatment and maintenance of the track

Intelligent infrastructure tenders

Train-and non-train-mounted remote condition monitoring systems for the monitoring of the rail infrastructure

Infrastructure support services (on-and-off track) tenders

Support services for infrastructure maintenance, including track and vegetation clearance

Information technology tenders

IT services including software, hardware and business systems

HR and training tenders

External training and staff benefits

General civils tenders

Construction not related to station redevelopment

Facilities (soft services) tenders

Office and station service, including waste management, cleaning and catering

Facilities (hard services) tenders

General building maintenance, including air conditioning, heating and property management

Electrification and fixed plant tenders

Projects, materials and services to support the electrified part of the rail infrastructure

Contingent labour tenders

Temporary infrastructure labour (including possession management) working under the direction of Network Rail

Business consultancy tenders

Consultancy for business services, including marketing services, legal services, management consultancy, financial and insurance services

Buildings tenders

Station building and renewals (shop fitting and renovation of existing stations)

Ballast tenders

Ballast and associated loading and unloading activities (ballast is the graded stone sub-base used for drainage and support of the track)

To monitor Network Rail spend, contracts and full procurement pipeline so you can start planning your bid capacity, click here.

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Bid Writing Support for Network Rail Frameworks?

Network Rail advertises their tender opportunities and frameworks using Bravo, which is a common portal for the public sector. You can monitor Network Rail tenders past and present by clicking this link.

You can monitor Network Rail tenders, other rail and broader public sector opportunities with our free software Tender Pipeline.

Once you are registered on the Bravo portal you will be able to bid for live Network Rail opportunities. They supply bidders with Network Rail Standards, which set out the expectations for suppliers and is important you fully understand these.

At Thornton & Lowe we help our clients bid for rail tenders by providing bidding advice and bid writing capacity. Most of our clients understand the challenges and how competitive Network Rail tenders can be so want a team of dedicated bid writers to be able to focus on developing the very best quality bid submission.

We have a rail tenders page, which includes bid writing tips for rail tenders that you can access here. You can also view our top 8 bid writing tips for any public sector tenders by clicking the link. By consistently applying this guidance when you are responding to tenders you will increase your quality scores, which will lead to more contract wins.

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Bid Writing Success and Feedback:

Thornton and Lowe provided an excellent service throughout the tendering period; from initial telephone enquiry to tender submission and beyond. The correct expertise of their staff combined with genuine people skills ensured they fitted

seamlessly into the existing company structure and added genuine value to the bid writing process.Stobart Rail

“We’ve been invited to a post-tender interview on the back of the submission you played a large part in preparing. Thanks very much.” HW Martin

To view feedback from our existing clients, click here.

Our case studies can be found here, which detail what we have helped our clients achieve.

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