the supply chain
There are several thousand companies which supply the railway industry in Britain with goods or services.
These range from single-person consultancies to large organisations with thousands of employees.
Companies supplying the railway range from single-person consultancies to large organisations with thousands of employees.
Some are former parts of British Rail, but others would exist irrespective of the effects of privatisation, because BR (and the companies which existed before nationalisation) often purchased parts, materials or services from third party businesses.
Because the modern industry is diverse, modern railway suppliers have a number of possible customers. For example, a company making seats for trains may supply one of the train builders directly, or a maintenance company running a depot which is refurbishing trains in-house, or a train operating company which is managing its own depots and rolling stock. As in so many other aspects of the industry, there is no ‘one size fits all’.
Some firms provide intellectual services rather than tangible products. These firms include consultants, lawyers, accountants, planners, map makers, designers, software companies, architects and engineers.
The supply chain can be complex. Take, for example, lineside signals. These involve various electric and other components, including lenses. The lenses will probably come from a specialist company which supplies a signal manufacturer. The manufacturer, in turn, may supply a contractor which is renewing or building a stretch of railway on behalf of Network Rail. As Network Rail also carries out day-to-day maintenance, the signal manufacturer may also supply Network Rail directly, without an intervening contractor.
This kind of chain exists in thousands of variations. Blank tickets, platform seats, light bulbs, signs, timetable booklets and the sandwiches in the buffet car – all have been bought by the train operating companies (or, in some cases, Network Rail) from a third party supplier.
The Rail Delivery Group has estimated that 120,000 people are employed in the railway supply chain, which is more than in the core operational railway (c.95,000).
Not all companies in the supply chain depend on the railway exclusively. Many also provide products or services for other customers as well.