Part of the £2.8bn project to electrify the Great Western route has been delayed, rail minister Paul Maynard has confirmed.
In a written statement to Parliament to provide an update on rail investment for the Great Western route, Maynard said part of the project had been "deferred".
Four electrification routes have been deferred:
- Between Oxford and Didcot Parkway (one of the main lines connecting Oxford to London)
- Electrification of Filton Bank (Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads)
- Electrification west of Thingley Junction (Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads)
- Electrification of Thames Valley Branches (Henley & Windsor)
"We have been clear that there have been difficulties with this programme," Maynard said, acknowledging the review of Network Rail's delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy last year, which had resulted in changes to the programme.
The plan had been to fully electrify the route from Cardiff to London by 2018, but it had already faced delays. It was estimated to cost £874m in 2013, but spending has risen steeply, leading to criticism from MPs as neither Network Rail nor the Department for Transport (DfT) have been able to give a schedule for when work will finish.
The main project to electrify the rail from Cardiff to London will go-ahead, but the DfT hasn't confirmed when the work will be complete.
"It is a project unprecedented in scale that is building on and around ageing assets in constant use," Maynard said. "This is an ambitious and challenging undertaking, but real progress is being made in delivering it."
He added that deferring some routes would free up £146m-£165m, which would be used to "deliver additional benefits to passengers". Maynard said when complete, the programme would stimulate economic growth from the capital through the Thames Valley, to the Cotswolds, West Country and South Wales.
In November last year, the Public Accounts Committee criticised Network Rail for serious planning and budgeting failures, including an "unacceptable" £1.2bn overspend on the Great Western main line project.