Network Rail has launched a major shake-up of its IT department to refocus it on core activities, with plans to outsource the enterprise operations and distributed computing workstreams.

Network Rail's infrastructure support services department will manage and support applications and equipment across the organisation, while the IT helpdesk, incident management and operations bridge units will be amalgamated into a new service centre to support Network Rail's 20,000 IT users. These core activities will be retained or brought back in-house.

The company has now shortlisted suppliers to provide enterprise operations and distributed computing services and is planning to select a single partner organisation for each workstream.

But Network Rail said an outsourcing arrangement would only be finalised "if the proposals are economically and technically viable" and the relationship with the proposed partner organizations was right. The selection process is set to be completed in the middle of this year.

The rail infrastructure firm said the restructuring was prompted by a detailed review originating from a 2006 benchmarking exercise, in which it analysed monthly performance statistics and trends in its IT infrastructure delivery.

The new strategic plan also takes previous experiences of insourcing and outsourcing into account, Network Rail said.

The rail firm has recently completed the national rollout of Windows XP, and last year began a process of consolidating nearly 900 applications in a move aimed at rationalizing the infrastructure it inherited from predecessor company Railtrack.