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MPs condemn £75m Sheffield tram-train pilot as a ‘how not to’ seminar

The pilot scheme to introduce a tram-train system between Sheffield and Rotherham has been like a  ‘how not to’ seminar for future projects, the Public Accounts Committee has claimed in a scathing new report.

Costs on the project rose from an estimated £15m up to £75m because of DfT failures to properly challenge Network Rail’s plans both at the outset and throughout the project.

Neither organisation had properly quantified the benefits from the project, meaning decisions were made without knowing if it would provide taxpayers with value for money.

The works are running two-and-a-half years behind schedule and MPs now said that, despite Network Rail revising its plans, the committee is still concerned that the projected benefits will not be achieved.

PAC chair, Meg Hillier, argued the project had not only promised great benefits for passengers but had been put forward as a potential model for similar future schemes in Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.

“Instead the reality is another rail project with all the makings of a 'how not to' seminar for senior civil servants,” she commented.

The plans had been trialling new technology in the UK, but both Network Rail and the DfT failed to properly consider the “high-level of uncertainty” which would be involved with the scheme.

“There have been long delays, and it is still not clear how, or even if, the experience of running this pilot will reduce the costs and improve delivery of any future tram-train schemes,” Hillier continued.

“Not for the first time, we heard evidence intended to reassure parliament and the public that lessons learned on this project will ensure the failings identified will not arise again.”

She went on to call on the government to back up the committee’s findings with a “meaningful review” of the way it manages such projects, which would take a transparent look at the costs and results of the project.

The committee also compared Network Rail’s failings on this project to the similar issues which occurred across the GWR modernisation programme.

The first tram-train services started on the line in September, with the National Audit Office revealing earlier in the year that funding had risen as high as five times what was initially forecast.

In RTM’s Aug/Sept 17 edition, Andrew Braddock, chairman of the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA), analysed the issues which have affected the scheme since its beginning nearly three years ago.

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Andrew Gwilt   19/12/2017 at 10:43

When will these Class 399 Tram-train vehicles be operating to/from Rotherham once the electrification is completed.

ICN   19/12/2017 at 12:40

Andrew, the issues are more complicated than just the provision of electrification, hence the need for a pilot scheme.

Ben   19/12/2017 at 12:45

Andrew, in your haste to post your comment you forgot the question mark. Are you making a statement or asking a question? Maybe you meant 'when will these class 399 train-train vehicles be operating?' as they obviously won't be operating before the electrification is completed. That part of your sentence is superfluous at best, much like most of your posts.

Sonning Cutting   19/12/2017 at 16:52

No mention of any discussions with the Germans who were pioneers in tram/trains. Am sure they could have pointed out a few of the pit-falls! Another case of British arrogance and the "not invented here" syndrome.

Andrew Gwilt   19/12/2017 at 22:29

And there’s me proven wrong as always.

Mmlred   20/12/2017 at 10:43

What a mess, and probably a nail in the coffin of any other speculative schemes across the country.

Rich   21/12/2017 at 11:14

Why can’t I make a comment on your site from my mobile phone ??

J, Leicester   21/12/2017 at 12:56

Rich, you did, but it ended up costing five times what it should have done and it still hasn't arrived.

M'lud Mason   24/12/2017 at 11:59

This is a classic case of a good idea being designed and project managed by council committees,engineers, accountants, and politicians. Little or no railway operational input. A civil engineering firm involved, told me specialist operational input was "unnecessary", as NR would undertake that role. Really??

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