Latest Rail News

09.11.16

NAO criticises DfT and NR failure to manage GWML electrification

The modernisation of the Great Western railway will need to be reassessed after recent setbacks to ensure that it still offers value for money, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has stated today, after the DfT revealed four deferrals to the project yesterday.

The cost of improving the route, which connects London with west and south-west England and south Wales, has increased by £2.1bn since 2013 and up to three-year delays to the electrification of the route will cost the DfT a further £330m.

The modernisation of the route, due to involve infrastructure works, new Intercity Express trains and service changes, aims to improve what is already one of the most overcrowded lines in England and Wales and is seen as necessary in order to accommodate forecast further passenger growth of 81% by 2018-19.   

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The modernisation of the route has potential to deliver significant benefits for passengers but this is a case study in how not to manage a major programme.

“The department's failure to plan and manage all the projects which now make up the Great Western Route Modernisation industry programme in a sufficiently joined-up way, combined with weaknesses in Network Rail's management of the infrastructure programme, has led to additional costs for the taxpayer.”

The NAO criticised the DfT for not bringing together a business case outlining all elements of the programme until March 2015, more than two years after it initially ordered new trains. This led to Network Rail re-planning the infrastructure programme when it became clear that the initial schedule could not be met.

The report has also blamed Network Rail for its “unrealistic” cost estimate of the project in 2014, which overestimated the impact of new technology, and its failures in planning and delivering the infrastructure programme – such as a minimum feasible schedule for the work and sufficiently detailed site surveys. Electrification between Maidenhead and Cardiff is now expected to cost £1.2bn more than the 2014 cost estimate.

DfT now intends to vary its order of Intercity Express trains so that they can operate under both diesel and electric power. However, the NAO has cautioned that the budget and schedule for electrification may still be over-optimistic, as the DfT will receive less money from the Great Western franchise prior to 2019 while the operator bears the costs of the delays.

“It is encouraging that since 2015 the department and Network Rail have a better grip and put in place structures to manage the programme in an integrated way,” Morse said. “However, significant challenges to the timetable still remain and there is more to do to achieve value for money.”

Due to budget constraints and delays, it is now envisaged that Great Western passengers in the north and west of England will have to wait for up to two years to start seeing benefits. Some stretches of the route will also not be electrified until the next rail investment period, which runs from April 2019 to March 2024.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers’ union, said: “The decision to defer the electrification of the line between Oxford and Didcot Parkway; of Filton Bank (Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads); west of Thingley Junction (Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads); and the Thames Valley branches (Henley & Windsor) is another blow to Britain’s railway industry and another example of the DfT’s incompetence.”

(Image: FGW GWR class 43 c. Nick Rice, Flickr)

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

Huguenot   11/11/2016 at 15:23

"it is now envisaged that Great Western passengers in the north [and west] of England will have to wait for up to two years to start seeing benefits." Is this a new push by GW north of Birmingham? They did reach Birkenhead and Warrington, of course, but never Manchester, Leeds. Seriously, though, here are some of the obvious cost overruns in this farce: * over-engineered OHLE. * High Output Plant System too inflexible and not fit for purpose. * failure to record trackside cablling, leading to damage by excavations. * unnecessarily extravagant clearances for overhead wiring. * failure to seek derogations for bridge parapet heights. * unwise decision not to work outwards from London and electrify suburban services first (as was done with MML and ECML) and so reap suburban benefits early on. * premature ordering of IEPs (DfT's fault, not NR's).

Roger Capel, Sheffield & Glossop   14/11/2016 at 12:49

Huguenot, there is GWR electrification from Chester to Birkenhead, only it's DC 3rd rail. Not much hope of extension there then-------. Seriously though, your last point goes a lot deeper. Never EVER AGAIN should any sane person order a fleet of rolling stock & then expect to fit a major electrification round it. I've lost count of the people who've said that IEP should have been "ECML First", with somewhere ready to operate it & iron out the wrinkles. As for the over-engineered OHLE, I'm a regular traveller on the stub of the Manchester - Sheffield - Wath, with its fairly bomb proof LNER/BICC ex-1500v overhead line (see also GE Suburban, but without the compound catenary). What's going up on the GWML makes the MSW look like Meccanno. What was BR telling us in the 60s about 25Kv being lighter & cheaper? One of their engineers proudly told the press that their arch structure cross beams can move up & down, as though that was new. May I direct anyone who thinks it is to Structure MH11-22, at the west end of Dinting viaduct. It's a 70 year old design & it's called a subsidence structure, mate.

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Former Aston Villa chair announced as WMCA HS2 growth delivery chair

21/09/2018Former Aston Villa chair announced as WMCA HS2 growth delivery chair

Steve Hollis has been announced as the new chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) HS2 growth delivery board. A former chairman... more >
Major northern station upgrade reaches phase two of redevelopment

21/09/2018Major northern station upgrade reaches phase two of redevelopment

Plans to improve the Doncaster Railway Station have reached phase two of the redevelopment process. Work has begun on the plans, developed b... more >
Northern unveils new digital train for roll-out at end of year

21/09/2018Northern unveils new digital train for roll-out at end of year

Northern has unveiled its refurbished Class 158 digital train for passengers, ahead of the new fleet’s complete roll-out by the end of the ... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

29/08/2018Going global: an interview with Network Rail’s Leevan Finney

RTM’s Jack Donnelly sat down with one of the leading minds behind Network Rail’s most advanced and innovative rail maintenance techno... more >
Transforming travel in the north west

06/02/2018Transforming travel in the north west

RTM’s Josh Mines talks to Robin Davis, head of new trains at TransPennine Express (TPE), about the huge rolling stock change journey the co... more >
Thameslink: Nearing the end of the line

23/01/2018Thameslink: Nearing the end of the line

RTM’s Josh Mines catches up with Mark Somers, project director for Thameslink, on how the final stages of the programme are progressing and... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. ... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

The East Coast franchise report tells us what we already knew: it was a bid set up to fail

18/09/2018The East Coast franchise report tells us what we already knew: it was a bid set up to fail

RTM's Jack Donnelly assesses what the Transport Committee's latest report on the VTEC franchise means for the industry as a whole “Eve... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

Northern Powerhouse Rail: The need for change

18/09/2018Northern Powerhouse Rail: The need for change

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will be transformational for the north – it will change the way people live, work, and play. It will rebalan... more >
Innovation through people and technology

18/09/2018Innovation through people and technology

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways and director of railway safety at the ORR, picks out the key industry challenges to focus on based on... more >
Why we all must mind the gap

18/09/2018Why we all must mind the gap

Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), explains how we can all ensure the UK’s next generation... more >
3D printing: from virtual to real

11/09/20183D printing: from virtual to real

Like so many other technological advancements, 3D printing has moved from being the stuff of science fiction, through niche industrial applicatio... more >