Great Western electrification might miss new 2018 target and £2.8bn budget, MPs warn

Rebecca Smith
The DfT needs to reassess the case for electrification on a section by section basis, the PAC said
The DfT needs to reassess the case for electrification on a section by section basis, the PAC said (Source: Getty)

The Great Western electrification project might miss its revised delivery target of December 2018 and £2.8bn budget, MPs have warned.

The government and Network Rail's failings on the cost estimations and planning of the project throws into doubt their ability to manage similar projects, the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) said today.

The estimated cost of the Great Western Main Line electrification programme rose by a "staggering and unacceptable" £1.2bn in the space of a year, the Committee said. And it is now unclear as to whether the project can be delivered to the revised target of 2018 with a budget of £2.8bn.

Read more: Costs of the Great Western railway project have surged £2.1bn since 2013

It said the Department for Transport (DfT) should "urgently review" its plans for electrification, not just on the various sections of the Great Western route, but also on the Midland Main Line and TransPennine routes.

The Committee said Network Rail have failed to plan the infrastructure work properly and the DfT failed to challenge Network Rail's plans effectively despite the very significant sums of public money at risk. It wants Network Rail to set out how the infrastructure and planned services will interact with each other this month.

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Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said today: “Mismanagement of the Great Western programme has hit taxpayers hard and left many people angry and frustrated. This is a stark example of how not to run a major project, from flawed planning at the earliest stage to weak accountability and what remain serious questions about the reasons for embarking on the work in the first place."

She added:

The sums of public money wasted are appalling – not least the £330m additional costs the Department for Transport will have to pay to keep the trains running because of delays to electrification.

The Department failed to adequately challenge Network Rail’s plans to carry out the infrastructure work and, even now, casts doubt on whether electrification work on this and other lines is even necessary.

Government accepts it got this project badly wrong and must now demonstrate it has learned the lessons.

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