Latest Rail News

01.10.15

Relief from supply chain as electrification ‘unpaused’ – but backlash too

The rail industry supply chain has welcomed the government’s decision to ‘unpause’ Midland Main Line and TransPennine electrification, as reported by RTM yesterday, while making clear the original halt to the works had a profound effect.

The supply chain say they will work with Network Rail to ensure a “robust and achievable” programme for the lines’ electrification.

There was a similar reaction from political leaders in the northern cities most affected by the pause of the TPE works – relief it was back on, but criticism of the government for the uncertainty and delays to the programme that the ‘pause’ caused.

The decision to restart the works – albeit with significant delays to the completion dates – is the first concrete result of Sir Peter Hendy’s review of the deliverability of Network Rail’s CP5 enhancement projects.

The Railway Industry Association (RIA), representing UK railway suppliers, welcomed Sir Peter’s intervention – but criticised the nearly four-month ‘pause’ of the electrification projects, which are now expected to finish between two and four years after originally planned.

RIA director general, Jeremy Candfield, said: “The pause to these major schemes affected the whole of our membership, from design engineers to train builders, from contractors to consultants, and manufacturers of everything from rails to our computer systems.

“Delivering projects of this scale efficiently requires considerable planning and investment in skills and resources across the whole supply chain. We will continue to work closely with Network Rail in developing a robust and achievable programme for these and the ongoing electrification work.”

Important suppliers to Network Rail had previously told RTM that the “uncertainty” thrown up by the reviews into Network Rail must end.

Given that the TransPennine electrification was paused pending Hendy’s recommendations from his upcoming CP5 (2014-19) enhancements review, which is likely to recommend a number of changes and delays to schemes into CP6 (2019-24), suppliers were worried even more projects would be delayed.

Philip Hoare, the head of the transportation division at Atkins, told RTM: “There have been significant slips in terms of programme at Network Rail, and challenges around budgets, and I’m sure the outcomes of the Hendy review will be pushing more and more schemes ‘to the right’ and into CP6 and possibly later.”

Indeed, yesterday’s announcement stressed that a “considerable amount of the electrification costs” of both TransPennine and the Midland Main Line will fall outside CP5 and will form part of the core of CP6.

Northern councils and pressure groups

And while northern councils embraced the decision – they reportedly lobbied Hendy himself through Transport for the North – McLoughlin was also subject to their backlash for the “very real, permanent delay” that the pause led to.

Leeds City Council leader, Cllr Judith Blake, said: “I’m not surprised that central government has once again changed its position on TransPennine electrification. Clearly, the impact of pressure from across the north has made the government act.

“Yet this ‘temporary’ pause had led to a very real, permanent delay. With work originally due to be completed by 2019, the delay to 2022 gives passengers three more years of a slow and overcrowded service.

“We know that 13% of people have to stand on the TransPennine Express each morning, meaning workers and residents in Leeds are having to pay a first-class price for a second-class service. Clearly passengers won’t want to accept any further delays to this project.

“People in the north deserve a fairer share of the transport funds available nationally and we will continue to make the case for more investment and more freedom to secure a better deal for our region. We need to see more happening, and at a far greater pace, for the Northern Powerhouse vision to become a reality.”

Campaigners delivered similar criticism, questioning how these big projects will be delivered in isolation from fixing the rest of the railway “given that we are still waiting for the various reviews of Network Rail to report”.

Martin Abrams, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the group had “campaigned hard” to get the decision to pause the TransPennine electrification reversed, with its ‘Northern Powercut’ operation leading to over 750 emails sent to chancellor George Osborne.

And while he accepted that northern communities and passengers would be pleased with the un-pause of this “vital rail infrastructure work”, he said: “Rather than delaying much needed rail improvements, the government should review the billions it’s spending on damaging road building projects that increase traffic and pollution. This money would be better spent upgrading public transport, cycling and walking.”

Similarly, Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said this “politically motivated stop-start approach” to crucial rail projects is “no way to run a transport system”.

Comments

Steve   05/10/2015 at 10:26

I think the pause was a simple example of the principle of 'Stop / Fix'. A basic management technique employed when it becomes apparent that a process is not working. Failure to fix the problem will only add to cost in the long run, the 'clarity and certainty' of simply carrying on is little more than a comfort blanket. Carry on regardless is a nice slogan for a T shirt, but is't no way to run a rail industry.

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