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Majority of infrastructure supply chain ‘not confident’ NR can deliver CP5

Nearly three-quarters of infrastructure firms working in the rail sector are not confident Network Rail has the capacity to deliver the rest of the programmes in CP5, according to a new report from CBI/AECOM.

The 2016 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey, which received responses from over 700 firms, revealed that, just over two years into the control period, more than half of firms working in the sector are unhappy with the delivery of the programme.

Despite unprecedented levels of investment going into the railways as part of CP5, nearly three-fifths of businesses believe rail infrastructure won’t improve over the course of this Parliament. But 99% of companies believe delivering CP5 remains an important priority for the new government.

The report authors noted that the results may still reflect the negative headlines surrounding the pause of the upgrade programme last summer, which then triggered the Hendy, Bowe and Shaw reviews.

Ahead of the final Hendy Review publication, the heads of two of Network Rail’s most important suppliers said the “uncertainty” thrown up by the reviews into the companies’ capabilities and future were worrying.

At the time, Philip Hoare, head of the transportation division at Atkins, covering rail and highways, said: “What we want as an industry is a really solid workbank and good visibility of when that work is going to come on-stream.

“To build and invest in the future you need to have good sight of that. At the moment, we haven’t really got that clear view.”

In February, Sir Peter Hendy published his ‘Enhancements Delivery Plan Update’, which revealed a number of ring-fenced funds for specialist station upgrades, innovation and research and Digital Railway projects had been pushed into CP6.

Sir Peter also announced the revised completion dates for the Great Western Main Line electrification programme, which had seen the costs for the project swell by up to £1.2bn from the £1.6bn agreed in 2014.

Responding to the survey findings, a Network Rail spokesperson argued: “The pressures of long-term underinvestment prior to Network Rail, and the current congestion many passengers face – a doubling of passengers in the past twenty years – highlight challenges for the whole railway industry. 

“We are absolutely focused on delivering the Railway Upgrade Plan – a £40bn spending and investment plan for Britain’s railways to help support economic growth and deliver a bigger, better railway. 

“Devolution to route businesses will allow each region to focus on delivering outstanding performance and innovation with their customers, contractors and supply chain. We’ll continue on that journey in the coming months and years as the Railway Upgrade Plan is delivered.”

The CBI/AECOM infrastructure report also noted that, despite Network Rail, under the leadership of Mark Carne, putting in place a process of reform, the results suggest the effect of this will take some time to flow through to those charged with delivering rail upgrades.

Businesses operating in the sector are clear that delivery challenges are not just limited to Network Rail – they are faced by the rail industry as a whole. Just one-third (32%) of infrastructure providers operating in the sector are satisfied that the industry has the capacity to deliver upgrades in the coming years. This could be linked to deficiencies in skills or in the supply chain as the programmes ramp up.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said: “Infrastructure is a key driver of productivity and living standards. Day in, day out, Britain’s businesses rely on our roads, railways and runways to move their goods, services and people up and down the country.

“But our message is a simple one: at the end of the day, delivery is what matters.”

She added that it is great the government is taking the decisions for the country’s long-term prosperity, giving the green light to the new runway at Heathrow, Hinkley Point and improving digital connections.

But Fairbairn noted that, at the end of the day, “delivery is what matters”.

“Businesses also need clear, deliverable timetables for action on major national projects – like CP5 and the Road Investment Strategy – in order for them to act as magnets for investment, growth and jobs,” she said.

“If we don’t get spades in the ground on existing plans, it’s clear we could put a major dent in the competitiveness of British business – and the UK itself.”

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Robert   04/11/2016 at 12:43

I left NR because the focus in the last 5 years has moved away from project delivery to bureaucratic nonsence. It seems the whole of NR management in IP delivery are more interested in making themselves look busy to get that next promotion rather than actually knuckling down and delivering some major projects. We estimated on major schemes that 18% of the project budget was spent on delivering the actual product. The remaining 82% was lost on risk mitigation, bureaucracy, poor decision making and protracted administration. The sponsors and delivery management teams at NR should see and learn from 'real-world' projects and learn to integrate schemes properly rather than act with no responsibility, have no liability when things go over budget and swan around like clients. The railway used to be delivery and Engineering focussed. Any focus or capability on delivery has been replaced with and extremely poor NR delivery ability.

Manchester Mike   04/11/2016 at 14:38

I agree with Robert. Nationalise Britain's railways whose sole focus is an integrated sector - railways. Much more efficient in the big picture.

Mark   04/11/2016 at 17:27

I have to agree totally with Robert, too much focus these days within NR as to why not to undertake projects than to push ahead with them! The sooner investment in the infrastructure, particularly at stations, is placed in the hands of the train operating companies the better. They are more driven to improve the customer experience and better placed to handle any adverse reaction during major station upgrades.

Lutz   05/11/2016 at 10:21

I would suggest that some of those comments come from those that that have failed to adjust to types of regime necessary to deliver projects on time and to budget. Going back to a self-serving closed-shop for the works is no answer to the problem. Quite clearly the big projects need to be taken away from NR with the latter re-focused on providing services to the project-focused professional JVs set-up specifically for the big-ticket deliveries.

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