Supplementary memorandum submitted by
1. Steps taken
by Railtrack or its predecessors over the past decade to warn
British Steel/Corus of its preference for longer rolled rail lengths
over welded short lengths.
An April 1992 British Rail memorandum to the
BR Procurement Committee outlined BR's objective to move to longer
lengths of welded rail: "BR presently obtains steel rail
in 120 ft. lengths and in the long term the objective of the businesses
is to move to 300 ft. lengths." The memo also speaks of preliminary
discussions with British Steel and Voest Alpine on a cost reduction
programme, options for which included optimising rail length and
rail length and delivery.
The minutes of the BR Procurement Committee
from April 1992 stated that BR was in discussions with rail suppliers
"with a view to the early introduction of supplies of 300
ft. rails to meet the InterCity Business aspirations of reducing
the number of welds in the track (ie 1 weld in every 600 ft. length)."
In the minutes of a BR Procurement committee,
from August 1992, the Chairman of the Committee asked that the
contract with British Steel include provision for clear and measurable
milestone targets to reduce the incidence of production of short
In a British Steel Track Products document of
June 1997, to Railtrack, under the title of "future initiatives",
it outlines: "In addition to the refocusing of the rail supply
process, it is envisaged that, building upon the partnership approach,
the Rail Facilities Management will be instrumental in the development
of positive beneficial initiatives such as:
longer length rail supply."
From October 1996 document from British Steel
Track products, it states:
"New Long Welded Raillengths in
excess of 182.88 metres
1. British Steel Track Products currently
has the capability of manufacturing Long Welded Rail up to 220
metres in length at our Workington facility.
3. as Railtrack is aware, we also have the
opportunity to increase string length over and above the current
220 metre maximum and therefore generate additional benefits to
nb: longer length rails would only be achieved
by welding extra short rail lengths and not via Railtrack's preferred
option of providing longer unwelded lengths.
The upgrade of the Castleton plant was a condition
imposed by Railtrack during the award of the latest rail supply
contract to ensure that the Corus welding plant could meet Railtrack's
demand for 216 metre rail lengths, there are no similar plans
to modify the Workington welding plant.
2. Steps taken by British Steel/Corus of which
Railtrack is aware to persuade Railtrack to stick with welded
lengths of short rail, for example through quality improvement
Corus have made no offer of additional quality
improvement programmes to those contained in the original contract
documents but they have offered discounted rail rates if Railtrack
continue with the utilisation of short rail lenghts.
With the exception of Corus, Railtrack's main
rail suppliers have responded to the increased need for long rolled
lengths by offering rail in lengths of 108 and 120 metres but
the Corus maximum length offered is 72 metres, ex-France.