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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Will cost overrun threaten the electrification of the mainline to Swansea?

The Western Mail reports on the finding by the National Audit Office that the spiralling cost of modernising the Great Western rail line has reached £5.6 billion. They say that the figure represents a £2.1 billion increase since 2013.

The National Audit Office's Chief Executive, Amyas Morse commented: "The department's failure to plan and manage all the projects which now make up the Great Western Route Modernisation industry programme in a sufficiently joined-up way, combined with weaknesses in Network Rail's management of the infrastructure programme, has led to additional costs for the taxpayer."

The report says that inadequate planning and unrealistic assumptions have contributed to delays and a huge rise in costs. Specifically, the cost of electrification between Cardiff and Maidenhead has risen by £1.2bn since 2014 and now stands at £2.8bn, an increase of 70% against the 2014 estimate.

What is most worrying about this report is how it will impact on electrifying the stretch between Cardiff and Swansea, which is envisaged to take place between 2019 and 2024 but which is not yet committed.

One MP believes that the failure to manage this project properly and the overspend puts that final stage at risk. Not only is there no firm date for that work, but we now need an assessment of whether it will even now go ahead.

This is a matter the Minister needs to provide reassurance on urgently.
Most of that cost overrun, due to bad planning by Network Rail of the electrification between London and the West Country, is behind us. Budgets for the completion of the project are much more under control, so logically it should proceed. That is not to say that logic will determine central government's decisions.

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