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‘We’ve never done this kind of thing before’ says McLoughlin as electrification costs rise

The transport secretary says the reason that the Great Western Main Line electrification is over-budget is because “we've never done this kind of thing before”.

On a campaign visit to Cardiff, Patrick McLoughlin told BBC Wales: "We are doing in excess of 850 miles and we are working with the Assembly with the Valleys lines.

"Obviously we need to keep an eye on cost, but I hope as we get on with the job we can keep a control on those costs.

"There will be some cost increases because we've never done this kind of thing before."

McLoughlin added that the electrification plans were "value for money" and stressed that he hoped to meet the 2018 deadline for completion.

Speaking to the transport select committee in March, where he also said he “hoped” it would be completed on time, he mentioned the fact that the route goes through “several World Heritage sites” and some “very difficult tunnels”, and acknowledged the widely-reported “cost increase” in the project. He noted that the scheme involved 15,000 foundations, 14,000 masts, 1,500 signal upgrades and 50 station improvements.

The select committee warned that other electrification projects “should not be put at risk due to the projected overspend on the Great Western Main Line”.

McLoughlin added that he would be keeping up the “pressure” on Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to ensure the project is completed to schedule.

Last year, RTM reported that Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne told the DfT that costs had swollen to £1.5bn, far beyond the original £600m estimate, the £874m predicted in the Strategic Business Plan, or the more recent £1bn estimate. 

(Image source: Stefan Wermuth/PA Wire)

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Joel   17/04/2015 at 12:06

"in excess of 850 miles?" - nice to know politicians still try it on. He's hiding that it's 850 track miles, not route miles, and we HAVE don it before. Otherwise there would be no 'knitting' between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow. This is corrupt use of statistics, relying on public ignorance of fact to excuse incompetent planning - major infrastructure projects have to be under-priced to meet 'benefit:cost ratio' returns, because each analysis is completed on too narrow a focus and too short a timescale. This is deceit on as grand a scale as any other policy failure, but where the objective is still one where there is national benefit.

Tony   18/04/2015 at 09:18

What a load of old tosh Josh. Predicting costs on these sort of complicated engineering works has always been difficult. What matters in the end is to get the job done even though it may cost more! This has been a long overdue upgrade. Slagging off the minister for no real reason is not at all helpful and I'm afraid it is a particular British thing. Maybe you have some sort of political nasty agenda.Josh?

Joel   07/05/2015 at 12:04

Not tosh, 'Josh' (and I'm not 'Josh' either). I worked for long enough in planning (and building) major transport projects, so I'm keying from bitter experience of spineless senior managers and tunnel-visioned politicians of all hues. We have a nationally-flawed evaluation process for major infrastructure projects (fact) to keep accountants happy, notably in the Treasury. If I have a political agenda, I'll spell it out clearly and unambiguously; if I have a statement based on fact and experience, that too will be in the same manner. Which of the two options does my original fit, please?

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