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Network Rail, ORR and DfT bosses to be ‘held to account’ in CP5 inquiry

Network Rail, Department for Transport (DfT) and Office of Rail and Road (ORR) bosses will be investigated at a Westminster inquiry set to examine their involvement in planning CP5 and the implications of halting major electrification works.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry, set to be hear evidence on 21 October, will hear evidence from Mark Carne (chief executive of Network Rail), Richard Price (chief executive of the ORR) and Philip Rutnam (permanent secretary of the DfT).

When McLoughlin ‘paused’ Midland Main Line and TransPennine electrification in June, he also told the Commons that “important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer”, showing concerns over its “ability to deliver” its £38bn five-year spending programme.

The National Audit Office has now submitted a memorandum to provide factual insight into the role the three major rail bodies played in the planning and delivery of the CP5 investment programme.

The PAC inquiry will “draw on” the memorandum to examine current difficulties in delivering the programme, understand how rail investment is planned, how CP5 differs from the 2009-14 CP4 programme and the “implications” of reclassifying Network Rail as a public sector body.

It will also investigate how and when “concerns were raised” about CP5 and how the government is responding to them.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said rail infrastructure is “an area of considerable concern” for the PAC, which has previously examined major projects such as HS2, Thameslink and Crossrail.

She added: “We found that the department lacked a clear strategic plan for the rail network, and it was unclear how the department makes decisions about which programmes to prioritise for investment.

“Now at least we are able to look in details at how Network Rail is spending its share of taxpayers’ money. It’s important to establish the facts about Network Rail’s performance and assess the value for money.

“With huge investment planned and multi-billion pound contracts being signed, we need to make sure the taxpayer is getting a good deal on what is much-needed improvement works. Planning and implementing large-scale rail projects is complex and expensive, and typically comes with the promise of significant economic and other benefits for the public.

“The decision to pause electrification work on the Midland Main Line and TransPennine rail route, and prioritise the Great Western Main Line project, has clear implications for taxpayers and the PAC will be holding Network Rail and the Department for Transport to account.”

Commenting on the memo, the NAO said: “Network Rail’s ‘civils’ renewal plans for the last three years of the planning period have not been approved by the ORR. At the time of the Final Determination, the ORR felt Network Rail had not explained why it was necessary to carry out so much more work.

“To give Network Rail more time, a new Civils Adjustment Mechanism was designed to allow scrutiny of the amount of work and cost at a later date. The ORR had planned to complete this work by September 2015, but has told Network Rail that the evidence Network Rail has provided was not sufficient.”

The inquiry will also come ahead of the much anticipated review by Sir Peter Hendy into the deliverability of CP5 enhancements programme, from which no project will be immune.

(Top image is a library photograph showing Patrick McLoughlin and DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam appearing before the transport select committee at a previous hearing. Credit: PA Wire)


Martin Young   13/10/2015 at 14:09

In light of the ORR letter to NR dated 6th August 2015, re: Possible breach of condition 1 of NR's network licence with regard to its delivery of its enhancement programmes. The letter states that there are thirteen identified weaknesses in the way NR delivers its projects; caused by systemic failure. I have been involved with implementing Systems Engineering - Requirements Management and Systems Integration and can only say that in my experience NR are sending out unclear signals as to the value of implementing a robust Systems Engineering management structure throughout all of its projects. If NR cannot get its act together and ensure that Systems Engineering is mandated then the existing problems will continue. In my experience, I think that the NR L2 Engineering Management for Projects NR/L2/INI/020009 Issue 6 does not make it clear to PMs and CEMs that it is their responsibility to ensure that the project technical and operational requirements are comprehensively reviewed (front-end definition) to set a robust baseline (Glass Case), and then ensure that the design and installation teams are providing accurate verification and validation evidence throughout the GRIP stages in accordance with BS EN 50126. Systems Engineering has not just been 'dreamed up' to put increased costs and workload on PM staff, as many think. However, its concepts and potential benefits are still relatively unknown within the rail industry. It stops the 'we always do it this way' attitude by making people think consciously and challenge what they and others are doing. So, NR; I say that it is time for you to 'practice what you preach' by ensuring that Systems Engineering is mandated for all new projects so that proper project costing and scope can be discussed and agreed early on with your contractors to the benefit of all parties.

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