All change for Network Rail

July 1 2015  

All change for Network Rail
Network Rail’s future hangs in the balance after serious doubt was cast over the operator’s ability to deliver major programmes of work.
 
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said Network Rail’s investment programme is costing more and taking longer than expected and its recent performance “has not been good enough”. He placed a “pause” on electrification of the Midland Mainline and Transpennine route between Leeds and Manchester. Network Rail’s current five year, £38Bn spending programme will be revised.
 
Network Rail chairman Richard Parry-Jones has stepped down and been replaced by Transport for London Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy FCIHT. The new chairman has been asked to develop proposals by the autumn for how the rail upgrade programme will be carried out.
 
A further report that will make recommendations for better investment planning will be produced by economist Dame Colette Bowe.
 
Chief executive Mark Carne said Network Rail faces some stretching targets in Control Period 5 between 2014 and 2019 and that the “pace of improvement is behind expectations”. He added that several regulatory targets were missed.
 
Detailed project costs had been higher than assumed and the total enhancement programme cost now exceeds the available five year budget. He said proposals for replanning the programme will be developed over the next few months.
 
Mr Carne admitted that Network Rail had been overly optimistic about the capacity of the company and its supplier base “to step up several gears in order to achieve the plan”.
 
Independent watchdog Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Passengers will want a clear plan of action, setting out exactly when Network Rail will start to deliver some of the promised improvements. They want to know that somebody is getting to grips with this."
 
Transport Select Committee chair Louise Ellman described the Secretary of State’s statement on Network Rail as disappointing. “It is clear that some of the important schemes Ministers have previously announced will not happen or will be delayed.
“But it is unclear what the practical implications of ‘pausing’ electrification will be for the Midland Mainline and the Transpennine route.”
 
(Photo: Network Rail)

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