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DfT ‘very concerned’ about funding IEP trains if GW electrification late

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam have been grilled by the Commons transport committee this afternoon on the delays to the electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML).

Asked why the government has prioritised the GWML at the expense of the now ‘paused’ Midland Main Line (MML) and TransPennine electrification, Rutnam explicitly said the costs of the incoming InterCity Express Programme (IEP) fleet made the GWML the “top priority”.

He said the government is “very concerned” to ensure the DfT does not end up paying for trains that cannot be used because the infrastructure is not ready. The production of electric trains and electrified infrastructure need to be synchronised, Rutnam says, and “someone has to bear the risk of that synchronisation” – in this case, the DfT.

McLoughlin was asked repeatedly to be specific about costs and dates, but refused to give clear answers until he sees the report from new Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy.


He also suggested the Office of Rail & Road (ORR) has “questions to answer” about its role as regulator, considering the now-delayed and over-budget schemes were signed off by it, but acknowledged these sign-offs came at an early stage and that a number of very complex programmes were being delivered at the same time.

McLoughlin says Network Rail has been responsible for some tremendous successes recently (citing Dawlish, Reading station and Nottingham station, among other projects), but refused to give a simple answer when asked whether it was “fit for purpose”. He said: “Well….look, it’s trying to do a vast job.”

McLoughlin suggested that the £12bn enhancements programme during CP5 was forecast to be £2bn behind as of September 2014, though said a number of ‘de-scopings’ and ‘re-scopings’ since then had changed things.

“Overall there is [still] a positive business case for Midland Main Line electrification”, McLoughlin said. “It should have been done a long time ago.”

He also confirmed that Oxford-Bletchley electrification as part of East West Rail is "not paused".

Follow @rtmnews on Twitter for live updates from the session, which is still going on as of 6pm. 


Simon J   21/07/2015 at 13:49

Serves the DfT right with their insistence in procuring these expensive Hitachi trains which will either be built in Japan as they have been so far or as kits built in the UK from parts shipped from Japan. This is simply to get Hitachi into EU Rail procurement. The IEP is nothing but the already existing South Eastern Javelin train some with the unnecessary additional load of a diesel engine and its fuel to lug about. The whole project is an unnecessary expense, if British Railways had even half of the money the IEP has cost we would have a better train built in the UK for use here and able to be exported.

Scottie   21/07/2015 at 13:50

The thing that puzzles me is that the GWML must be the most intensively used Diesel operated routes anywhere in the world. It has been like this for the past 25 years + All previous Governments and Transport Guru's have failed to electrify this most deserving of Routes. Electrification of the GWML must be a national priority, however this must not be at the expense of electrification of schemes in northern England nor the MML either. We suffer in the UK from third Rate Politicians who are completely unable to plan ahead apart from submitting their overblown and fictitious expense claims !

Henry Law   21/07/2015 at 14:15

There was an article in the Railway Magazine in 1985 which proposed 3-rail electrification for the GW in a rolling programme. The aim was to avoid the costs of providing clearances and other accommodation works for overhead electrification and to integrate with the Southern and LUL services, since it would have included the connecting lines to Basingstoke, Redhill/Tonbridge and to Oxford and Newbury. It might also have worked in conjunction with electrifications of the SWT and GW routes Exeter. Perhaps it was not such a dumb idea. It could have been completed years ago.

Nickp   21/07/2015 at 14:43

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory... And echoes of WCML franchise farrago.

Wise Engineer   21/07/2015 at 15:41

Too many chiefs, not enough injuns. What other industry operates with the ratio of deliverers to pontificators as the UK rail industry? We have NR IP who have failed to scope this properly, layers of measurement and reporting, ORR, DfT, MP committees, countless levels of consultants keeping the meter running. Disgraceful waste of resource and public money. This is looking more and more like a blame game. Focus on delivery not reports. Don't forget the need to access the asset under the wire once the trains are running. Oops, that bit has been missed. You couldn't make this debacle up. Fred Karno would be proud. CP6 seems a good opportunity to give us a railway minus NR, ORR, DfT non delivery.

David, Croydon   21/07/2015 at 17:14

The IEP trains are off-the-shelf jobs from a foreign company. The windows are placed arbitrarily, and many standard class passengers will have be claustrophobic- having no window view, only an opaque wall! Only 1st class passengers can be assured of a window.

Chris, Chesterfield   21/07/2015 at 21:21

'many standard class passengers will have to be claustrophobic- having no window view' : - they will also be faced by the current-fashion 'tombstone seat' in front of them, so will be truly walled in. No marks for the design consultants on this job, but of course they were given an impossible remit. These (new and hugely expensive) trains will be used on the East Coast and Great Western routes known and marketed for their scenic sections, but passengers will have to take pot luck on reservations into these abysmal cells. Will they come back for more? Meanwhile it looks as if Scotland knows how to do these things better, having written into its specification for the new Scotrail franchise the use of new trains expressly for scenic enjoyment, which will certainly show up the IEP when they are in use shortly.

Jak Jaye   22/07/2015 at 11:05

Has there ever been a more useless,gutless,spineless Transport Minister? everything he touches goes pear shaped and he seems more concerned with his mates at Virgin/Stagecoach then anything else,i just hope that these Jap built piles of poo go bang from the first,cant see them lasting as long as the supposedly stop gap HSTs

Colin Redman   23/07/2015 at 15:43

The DfT is crapping itself over GW electrification, as it just doesn't want fancy new IEP trains in secure storage if the wiring has not been completed. Would make great headlines. They cannot afford a slip up, so that's why Midland and TransPennine has been put on a back burner, and my money is that Midland Main Line may never happen. Someone has not had their eye on the ball, and now the rolling stock cascade plans are is disarray too. Funny how quiet plans for the electric spine from Southampton to Nuneaton has gone too. I won't even start to embark on the debate that IEP is the wrong train, and no more is one man's folly foisted on train operators.

Grahamh   23/07/2015 at 17:01

Can't disagree with any of the above. Why go to Japan for trains? Why was the installation train not more thoroughly tested? Why does it always cost more than predicted? etc.etc.etc.

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