Neos catches the train to build fibre for UK rail network

Neos catches the train to build fibre for UK rail network

Harriet Hepburn Network Rail.jpg

Neos Networks has identified itself as the company that is the preferred bidder for Network Rail, Britain’s rail infrastructure company.

Network Rail (NR), a state-owned company that runs track, signalling and main stations, said last month it was in exclusive discussions with a private sector consortium to upgrade its ageing telecoms infrastructure.

Harriet Hepburn (pictured at Euston station in London), Network Rail’s corporate finance director, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for NR, and we are excited at the prospect of entering this long-term partnership. The proposal provides a comprehensive package that will deliver real benefits for passengers and the railway, and also significant savings for the UK taxpayer.”

Neos said it will invest in the design and construction of a new trackside fibre communications network. This will be used to carry signalling for trains, trackside sensors, CCTV and high-speed broadband provision for trains, railway depots and offices.

Network Rail runs the rail infrastructure in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, where trains are run separately.

Neos Networks last month announced it had completed metro access networks in the cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, and the first phase of its London deployment. In 2021 it said it was building a national network for Three UK.

CEO Colin Sempill said: “We look forward to working with Network Rail to finalise the contract and start mobilising this project which will see the creation of numerous jobs in different geographies.”

The ancestor of Network Rail used to run its own communications network, British Rail Telecoms, set up in 1992 and sold to Racal Electronics three years later. At the height of dotcom mania in 1999, Racal sold Racal-BRT to Global Crossing, now a constituent of Lumen, for £1 billion: half of that sum went to Racal shareholders.

Neos Networks said its 34,000km fibre network has 550 exchanges. Neos will work in partnership with a tower company – still officially unidentified – that will use its 4G and 5G network infrastructure, with the objective of supplying fixed and mobile connectivity to Network Rail.

Neos Networks said this project will support it in expanding its national network reach to increase coverage and to improve access to high capacity services.

“These services will be beneficial in transforming business operations for enterprises, hyperscalers and service providers, as well as mobile network operators looking to enable 4G and 5G connectivity along the rail corridor,” said Neos.

“The new network will also create opportunities to advance the rollout of fibre-to-the-premise connectivity across Britain, improving infrastructure access for alternative network providers.”

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